Machinists and Mechanics

Thousands of machinists and mechanics currently work for the more than 600 different railroads in the United States, and many more railroad mechanics and machinists are retired, whether after an accident or illness or following an untroubled career with their employers. The Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) provides legal protections for all railroad employees, including machinists, mechanics, and apprentices in these professions.

Injuries among Mechanics and Machinists

Because of the nature of their work with machinery — whether operating, repairing, calibrating, installing, removing or manufacturing it — machinists and mechanics are vulnerable to both accidents and illnesses incurred on the job. Exposure to toxic solvents used for cleaning machinery, for example, is just one of many possible causes of the illnesses developed by mechanics and machinists. Other FELA claims by these workers may be based on:

According to the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics, mechanics such as those who work on cars are more likely than other workers to be injured or killed on the job. Railroad mechanics' work is all the more dangerous. Machinists also have high rates of injury and illness.

Providing Compensation for Injuries and Illnesses

FELA was passed by the U.S. Congress in 1908 after years of resistance from the railroad industry. Designed to provide and ensure fair compensation for railroad workers such as machinists, mechanics, brakemen, conductors, switch operators, etc., FELA met with huge resistance from the railroad industry, which until then had run roughshod over the rights of injured railroad employees.

Not the Same as Workers Compensation

Before FELA, a railroad worker who was hurt on the job or made seriously (possibly permanently) ill by conditions on the job had essentially no chance to obtain fair compensation for his or her damages from the employer railroad. FELA, although not the same as states' Workers Compensation programs, provides similar benefits to railroad employees — usually several times greater benefits, in fact.

However, unlike Workers Compensation programs, FELA requires a railroad employee to prove that his or her employer was 'legally negligent' (at least in part) for the injury or illness. This is a more demanding test to meet, compared to Workers Compensation program, which usually have no such requirement.

Talk to a FELA Attorney about Your Circumstances

If you are a railroad mechanic or machinist who was hurt on the job or made ill by your job conditions, contact a FELA lawyer to arrange a free consultation to discuss your legal rights.