• Roven Kaplan LLP- FELA

FELA (The Federal Employers Liability Act)

The Federal Employers Liability Act (“FELA”)
is a special law that was passed by Congress almost 100 years ago to hold the railroad industry to account for the “limbs and lives that it consumes in its operation every day.

Practice Areas
When injury strikes, it is critical for a law firm to respond to the special problems a worker and his (or her) family face. A railroad worker’s world is unique; from the need for RRB temporary disability benefits, to the completion of required accident reports and the need of a referral to an independent, qualified, doctor. We can help! Injured railroad workers often face difficult decisions of whether to settle or litigate an injury claim.

Roven-Kaplan’s lawyers operate on the commitment and belief that every injured person is entitled to an educated and informed opinion about his chances of complete physical recovery before the decision is made to settle a case.

If the railroad is unreasonable and your case needs to be tried to a jury, our Firm’s experience in handling FELA trials, coupled with our association with highly qualified local counsel throughout the country, provides our clients with the kind of support system and aggressive approach it takes to go toe-to-toe with big corporations.

Whether you require confidential counseling, (so you can deal with the railroads’ claim department on a minor injury yourself) litigation and/or mediation of your injury case, or trial by jury, we stand ready to help you and your family move through a difficult time and onward to a successful result and a new beginning.

Asbestos/Occupational Cancer and Other Respiratory Injuries

Our lawyers have successfully settled and/or tried the following types of occupational lung disease for railroad and other occupationally exposed workers:


Roven-Kaplan, L.L.P.



Asbestosis, Mesothelioma,
Asbestos Cancer (Lung, esophageal, colon)


ASBESTOSIS (Scarring of the lungs or the lung lining from asbestos exposure)-often results in shortness of breath, chronic cough or both.

Often railroad workers and retirees have questions regarding asbestos and no where to turn to for answers. The information below covers some of the questions frequently asked by our clients:

What Is Asbestos and How Was it Used on the Railroad?

Asbestos is a mineral that may cause many diseases, including cancer. It was used in insulation materials (lagging) during the steam era and into the diesel era. Steam engine boilers, fireboxes, pipes and cabs were insulated with asbestos. In addition, asbestos was used in many other compounds such as pipe coverings, heat shields, cement, gaskets, packing and rope.


Why Should I Be Concerned about Exposure to Asbestos?

Because breathing asbestos dust can cause serious diseases:


ASBESTOSIS is scarring of the lungs caused by breathing asbestos. Asbestosis is incurable and may worsen over time. It usually does not cause problems until 20-30 years after exposure.

CANCER of various types is also caused by asbestos exposure, including lung cancer, cancer of the lining of the chest and abdomen (mesothelioma) and some gastrointestinal cancers, particularly cancer of the larynx.


What Symptoms Are Associated With Asbestos Disease?

The universal symptom in all lung diseases is the same: shortness of breath. This is typically worse with exertion or exercise. Many asbestos-affected individuals have a dry, nagging cough. Some persons with early asbestos disease have few symptoms as all.


What Railroad Workers Were Exposed?

Asbestos-caused diseases are not confined to any particular job title or description. If you worked in the shops or round houses, or worked on the crew of a steam locomotive, you were probably exposed to asbestos, even if it was not continually dusty.


How Long Does it Take for Asbestos Disease to Develop?

The scarring from asbestos takes a long period of time to develop, with the disease not appearing until 20 to 40 years after a worker's first exposure to asbestos. Once you have inhaled the fibers they cannot be removed from your lungs. Asbestos tends to slowly and continually damage the lungs over time, even after exposure stops.


What About Railroad Veterans Who Are Already Deceased?

Often asbestos-related deaths and cancers can be documented by a thorough review of medical records. In general, the family of a deceased railroader has three years in which to investigate and file their claim for compensation. Time limits may be shortened in some circumstances.


How Are Asbestos Health Problems Diagnosed?

The medical lab tests for asbestosis are relatively simple. Initially, all that is required is a basic chest x-ray. However, this x-ray must be evaluated by a certified radiologist with special training.

If it is determined that the x-ray shows asbestos scarring, then, special breathing tests (pulmonary function tests) are arranged. These tests can reveal the extent of the impairment that asbestos has caused.

Unless a worker or retiree has developed a malignancy (cancer) no surgeries, biopsies, or hospitalizations are needed or recommended.

The staff at Roven-Kaplan, L.L.P. has over twenty-five years of combined experience in assisting veteran and retired railroaders with occupational diseases and injuries. Our goal is to protect your rights while providing you with responsive individualized legal service. Mr. Roven is past chairman of the Occupational Disease Section of the Academy of Rail Labor Attorneys. References and further information are available upon request.

How Can I Get More Information or Advice About My Situation?

Persons interested in more information or who need legal assistance concerning asbestos or other occupational diseases and injuries are welcome to contact us.

ASBESTOS RELATED CANCERS (mesothelioma, lung cancer or cancers of the g.i. system including laryngeal, esophageal, colon, etc.)

SILICOSIS (in sand blasters, ballast regulator operators, laborers and other employees)- involves exposure to sand, granite dust or other inorganic dusts such as ballast rock, emery grinding wheels, etc.

HISTOPLASMOSIS (Can be caused by exposure to bird droppings and bacteria laden dust in old buildings or structures).

SIDEROSIS - Caused by chronic exposure to welding fumes and dust and is often preceded by “welding fume fever”.

WELDING FUME PARKINSONISM (a syndrome that resembles Parkinsons disease-has been reported in long-term welders and boiler makers; especially those welding in confined spaces.

COPD-from exposure to fumes, dust, and vapors, (sometimes referred to as chronic bronchitis or chronic airways disease)

RADS (Reactive Airways Disease Syndrome) from exposure to acids, respiratory irritants and volatile chemicals).

Some inhalation injuries will appear immediately (for example, in cases involving exposure to acid fumes or lung irritants). However, others will appear on a delayed basis and are only diagnosable later in life (for example, chronic exposure to dusts such as asbestos, emery dust or silica containing sand or rock). Either way, these cases require prompt investigation, a thorough understanding of the substance involved, and access to the best doctors who can assess proper treatment and whether permanent lung damage has occurred.


Lung injury cases are very difficult for a layman to investigate or resolve by himself. Under FELA (the railroad workers law) an active or retired rail worker must file in court, or settle his claim within three years of the time “he knew or should have known” of an occupational disease, or in the case of a deceased worker within three years of the date of death at the latest. These deadlines are crucial and sometimes dangerous to navigate and pinpoint. We can help you through the legal minefield.


The lawyers at Roven-Kaplan have represented workers from across the country for over 20 years in occupational lung disease and cancer cases. Let us put our knowledge, medical referral resources and experience to work for you and your family. Whether you are actively working, currently off-work injured or retired, we’re here to help. Client references are available in your neck of the woods. Just call and inquire.