What is the Statute of Limitations in a FELA Case? Three Year Time Limit to Recover Damages
The Federal Employees Limitations Act was passed by Congress back in 1908 as a response to a growing number of railroad deaths. Before FELA was established, railroad workers and their surviving families were not able to sue the railroad companies for negligence. Railroad workers were subjected to losing their lives and their limbs while on the job because working on a railroad was such a dangerous occupation. Back in the 1800’s, the courts ruled that an employee could not recover damages from an employer if an injury occurred on the job. FELA statute of limitations is three years.
Knowing that the FELA statute of limitations is three years is simple enough. This means that this is the time period in which the injured worker has to file a lawsuit to begin recovering damages from the company. What is not so simple is determining exactly when the injured worker’s injury began. Sometimes it is obvious such as when one traumatic event occurs or in the event of death. But other times a work-related injury can occur over time and the injured worker may not know when the injury started or be aware that the injury is work related.
If a medical doctor diagnoses a hearing loss as being caused by on the job noise exposure then the FELA statute of limitations does not begin on the date that the hearing loss was diagnosed by the medical doctor. The beginning of the statute of limitations can begin if other workers in the same job at the same company have job-related hearing loss. Human resource records will be subpoenaed so that the courts can determine if there is a history of the same occupational injuries at a company. It can be difficult to file suit under the FELA statute because first it must be determined when the statute of limitations began.
The FELA statute of limitations is said to have begun whenever a worker knew or should have known that the injury existed and that workplace exposure was a cause. This is where the company’s human resource records will be scrutinized. If someone is filing a suit under the FELA act, then the first thing that has to be determined is what the date of the injury was or when the injury occurred. If an injured worker knew that the injury was occurring but did not seek treatment, this does not extend the statute of limitations.