The History of FELA
Between 1889 and 1920, the railroad industry in the U.S. grew exponentially. This expansion led to increased dangers for railroad workers.
In fact, the average life expectancy for a switchman working in 1893 was just 7 years, and the odds of a railroad brakeman dying on the job in 1888 were nearly four to one. When injuries and deaths occurred on the job, railroad workers and their families were not entitled to any form of compensation.
This changed in 1908, however. FELA was passed by Congress, allowing injured railroad workers to sue their employers for compensation in the event they were injured on the job, and also enabling their families to sue if they were faced with the death of a family member. This act finally held railroad companies accountable for the dangerous conditions in which they placed their employees.