Railroad Work Injuries (FELA)

Federal law requires employers to maintain a safe workplace for their employees. The two government agencies that regulate workplace safety are the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA).


OSHA laws require employers to provide a working environment that is free of known safety and health hazards. OSHA’s regulations govern most private employers. If a Chicago employee works in an industry that is regulated by OSHA, he or she can file a complaint with OSHA and request an inspection of the workplace if they feel that their employer is not complying with OSHA regulations. If an OSHA inspector discovers a safety or health violation at the employer’s worksite, OSHA will cite the employer and issue the appropriate penalties.


OSHA does not have full regulatory authority over railroad safety. There are a few areas in the railroad industry in which OSHA has jurisdiction, such as machine shops, but the FRA governs the safety of railroad working conditions that are not present in typical industrial settings.

FRA and state inspectors review rail safety and hazmat compliance throughout the year. The FRA summarizes its findings and enforcement actions in an annual report. However, if a Chicago railroad worker spots a safety violation, he or she can report it to the FRA. The agency will review the complaint and take proper enforcement actions.

Compensation for Work-Related Injuries and Diseases

Non-railroad workers

In most cases, an employee’s only recourse to recover medical expenses and other costs related to a workplace injury or occupational disease is through the Illinois workers’ compensation system. Illinois’ workers’ compensation laws do not allow an employee to sue the employer directly for personal injuries unless the employee can show that employer intended to harm him or somehow retaliated against him for filing a workers’ compensation claim.

It is irrelevant that the employer might have been negligent or even grossly negligent in failing to remove the workplace hazard that caused the employee’s injury. Nor does it matter in most cases whether the employee’s own negligence caused his injury. If a Chicago employee suffers an on-the-job injury, the employer must pay workers’ compensation benefits, and the employee cannot, in most circumstances, sue the employer directly.

Railroad workers

Railroad employees who have suffered a work-related injury or illness can receive compensation pursuant to the Federal Employer’s Liability Act (FELA). FELA is different than state workers’ compensation laws because the employee may file a direct lawsuit against the railroad. However, the employee bears the burden to prove that the railroad’s negligence caused his Railroad Work Injuries FELA in whole or in part. In addition, the employee’s compensation may be decreased by the amount that his own negligent conduct caused his injury or disease.

Chicago railroad workers who believe they have a FELA claim should contact an experienced Railroad Work Injuries FELA attorney. The attorney should be one who has built solid relationships with the railroads and their attorneys. This could help expedite an acceptable settlement.