Thousands of Americans go through the process of filing injury claims every year. During the process, the thought of not being able to pay your bills is gut-wrenching.
In the event of an on-the-job injury at the railroad, it’s crucial to know what to expect during the claims process. Our principal office is in Houston, but we handle cases nationwide. While the procedures may vary from railroad to railroad, there are some general principles that remain the same no matter which railroad you work for.
From our Houston railroad injury attorneys here at Roven Camp, here is an overview of the Federal Employer’s Liability Act (FELA), including information on how to pay your bills while your claim or lawsuit is pending.
What is the Federal Employer’s Liability Act?
The Federal Employer’s Liability Act (FELA) is a law that provides injured railroad workers with compensation for their injuries. The Act was passed by Congress in 1908 as a way to ensure railroad workers are guaranteed a safe workplace.
In order to be eligible to file a FELA claim, you must meet the following criteria:
- You must be an employee of a railroad engaged in interstate commerce;
- Your injury must have occurred while you were performing your job duties; and
- Your injury must have been caused by your employer’s negligence (this includes actions by other employees, coworkers, agents and contractors of the employer)
How do I pay my bills while my Texas FELA claim is pending?
We know how frightening it can be to have to stop working due to an injury at work. Not only are you worried about the physical pain, but you’re also concerned about how you will pay your bills while off work.
There are several options that may be available to help you cover these expenses until your FELA claim is settled. You just have to know what benefits are available and where to apply for them.
- If you are unable to work due to injury, you may be entitled to receive temporary sickness benefits from the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB). To qualify, you must receive no wages, salary, and/or sick pay from railroad or nonrailroad employment for the days you are claiming benefits. You will need to file an Application for Sickness Benefits, which can be obtained from your union representative or the RRB office. You will need your doctor to complete a Statement of Sickness form to support your claim for benefits. And you should file the Application within 10 days of the day you become injured or you may lose some benefits if you file late. The application is considered filed on the day it is received by any RRB office.
- You are also likely to have benefits available under a supplemental sickness benefit plan. These supplemental benefits will help make up the difference between the temporary sick pay received from the RRB and your normal employment earnings. This supplement will pay you after the RRB benefits begin, but you must apply for them separately.
- You may have your own private health or accident insurance policy that can provide supplemental benefits, short-term disability benefits and/or long-term disability benefits.
- When your RRB and Supplemental Benefits run out, you may be eligible for a temporary loan from a reputable litigation funding company. Such a decision should be made only when absolutely needed. Your attorneys know the funding companies that are fair and reputable.
- If applicable, you may also be able to receive help from a charity or a loan from a friend or family member, or other possible temporary funding and/or loan options.
- If your injury is permanent and will not allow you to return to work for the railroad, you may have additional benefits available to you depending on your number of months of service.
- If you have 240 months of creditable railroad service (at any age), or have 120 months of creditable railroad service and are at least 60 years old, and are permanently disabled for work in your regular railroad occupation, then you are eligible to receive an occupational disability annuity. These applications, especially during the current pandemic, take several months to process and if you qualify then you should apply for these benefits as soon as practicable.
- If you have 120 months of creditable railroad service, or have at least 60 months of creditable railroad service after 1995, and you have to stop all work and are permanently disabled from any kind of regular work, then you may qualify for a total and permanent disability annuity. (If you have less than 120 months of service, your Tier II benefits cannot begin before you reach age 62.)
It’s important to discuss your options as soon as possible with a Texas railroad injury attorney with experience in FELA and who is familiar with the RRB staff and procedures. Many of the benefits identified above, such as the RRB sickness benefits and the supplemental sickness benefits, are temporary, although you may also qualify for extended benefits in the year following your injury.
What are the benefits of filing a FELA claim?
When you file a FELA claim, you may be entitled to a number of benefits, including:
- Medical expenses: If you are injured on the job, the national collective bargaining agreement makes the railroad responsible for paying the medical bills related to your on-the-job injury. Generally, the railroad employer will pay the copay and deductibles that are sent to the claims representative by the medical provider. Sometimes you may have to forward these bills on to the claims representative handling your file. Be aware that many times you will end up paying out of pocket for office visits and that you should keep a copy of all receipts and expenses paid by you at these appointments.
- Loss of wages (earning capacity): If you are unable to work for any period of time after an on-the-job injury, you are entitled to make a claim for the lost wages or loss of earning capacity if you are unable to return to work for a railroad. Generally speaking, this claim is not paid unless and until the railroad settles your case in full. In some instances, your FELA employer may offer continuing wage payments, but be aware that your employer will want to be reimbursed (or obtain a credit at trial) for these payments if and when a settlement is reached.
- Permanent or Occupational disability benefits: If your injuries are so severe that you are unable to return to work, you may be entitled to receive a permanent disability annuity or occupational disability annuity from the RRB as described above.
- Survivor and/or Wrongful Death Damages: If you are the family member of a loved one who dies as a result of an on-the-job injury, you may be entitled to file a claim for the wrongful death and survivor damages on behalf of the estate of the FELA employee.
Contact our Texas railroad injury and FELA attorneys today
If you have been injured on the job, it is important to seek legal assistance as soon as possible. At Roven Camp, we can help you file a FELA claim and ensure that you receive the benefits you deserve. Our Houston-based office handles FELA cases nationwide. We will work with you every step of the way to make sure that your case is resolved as quickly as possible. Contact us today for a consultation.