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Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) of 1908

A federal statute that provides for a liberalization of the rules for determining tort liability applicable to the liability of railroads to their employees for personal injury (PI). Under normal tort rules, the injured party must prove negligence on the part of the defendant and the absence of contributory negligence or assumption of risk on his or her own part. Under FELA, the employee need only show that any negligence on the part of the employer contributed to the injury. However, contributory negligence on the part of the employee reduces the recovery in proportion to the negligence attributable to the employee. The practical effect of this law, as interpreted over the years by the courts, has virtually been to impose a strict liability law on railroads with respect to injury to their employees in a manner very similar to workers compensation but without the limitation on benefits provided under the workers compensation laws.


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