The Federal Employers Liability Act was passed by Congress in 1908, for the purpose of providing compensation to railroad employees who are injured on the job. It enables injured employees to bring claims directly against their employers where it can be shown that it was the railroad's negligence that caused the injury.
Under FELA, the injured employee may file a lawsuit in the state or federal courts and have a jury decide the damages, if any, to which he is entitled. Unless the claim is settled the lawsuit must be filed within three years of the date of the accident. As distinguished from state workman's compensation laws, there is no schedule of benefits, whether weekly or otherwise to which an employee is entitled. Instead there are elements that determine damages. They include lost wages, pain and suffering, permanency of injury and effect on life style, future pain and suffering, future lost wages, and out-of-pocket expenses including medical costs. Usually the damages under FELA can be significantly greater than that which would normally be collected if under workmen's compensation. Because FELA involves bringing a claim directly against the employer, the railroads make every effort to keep the amount they pay out as low as possible.
In order to counter this, and because it is a specialized area of the law, the BLET has appointed "designated counsel" around the country to whom members can go for guidance, advice, and representation. They are all experienced in handling FELA claims. To view a list of designated FELA counsel for employees of BLET Western Lines, click the appropriate State.
Brother Walpert, BLET National Secretary-Treasurer, sent a letter on January 12, 2010 to All National Division Officers and Employees, All General Committee of Adjustment Officers and Employees, All State Legislative Board Officers and Employees, and All Division Officers and Employees regarding the revised Code of Compliance for BLET Officers and Employees Concerning Relationships with Employers and Designated Legal Counsel. The Code was revised and adopted by the Advisory Board on December 17, 2009. Also enclosed is a copy of the Protocol for Designation of and Rules of Conduct for Designated Legal Counsel and Procedures for Adding or Removing Designated Legal Counsel. Letter from Walpert Compliance Documents