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Fela Information Center

Experienced, statewide representation for families and individuals with FELA claims - contact the Milwaukee, Wisconsin, law offices of Derzon & Menard today. Free consultations are available. You pay no legal fees unless we win.

FELA Lawsuit Chronology

We work for the railroad worker. We work to give you a voice and demand results. If you've been injured in connection with the work you do in the railroad industry - call Derzon & Menard at 414-326-4643 for a free consultation.

If you are a railroad employee and you were injured on the job, you may be a little unsure of what to expect when you file a claim under the Federal Employers' Liability Act (FELA). A lawsuit is complicated, and it can be full of unpleasant surprises and frustrating delays. While every lawsuit is different, there are some general similarities common to all civil suits, including FELA claims. This article provides a chronology of how a lawsuit generally proceeds. An experienced FELA attorney at Derzon & Menard, S.C in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, can explain these steps in greater detail and guide you through the process.

Initial Steps

After your injury, your employer will likely require that you fill out a report regarding the accident. The railroad will then conduct an investigation into the cause of the incident. It is important to consult with an attorney soon after the accident. Your attorney will conduct his or her own investigation into what happened, who was at fault and the extent of your injuries. It is likely that you, your attorney, the railroad company and any other parties involved will likely discuss settlement of your FELA claim.

Initiating a Lawsuit

If your claim does not settle, your lawyer may file a civil action on your behalf. This begins with filing a complaint. A complaint is a legal document that lays out the claims that the plaintiff (the person bringing the lawsuit) has against the defendant (the person or business being sued).

Once the complaint is filed and served, the defendant has to answer within a certain time (usually about 20 days). The answer sets forth the allegations of the complaint the defendant admits to, if any; the allegations the defendant denies; the party's defenses; and whether the defendant has claims against the plaintiff (called counter claims), a co-defendant (called cross claims) or any other party (called third-party claims). Instead of filing an answer, the defendant can respond with a motion to dismiss, which asks the court to dismiss the plaintiff's case based on one or more of the following grounds: lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter, lack of jurisdiction over the person, insufficiency of process, insufficiency of service of process, failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted and failure to join a party.


During discovery, the parties exchange documents and other information about the issues relevant to the litigation. Each party can ask the other(s) to answer written questions called interrogatories; produce certain categories of documents; and admit certain facts. The parties will also have an opportunity to question witnesses at depositions. The witnesses are under oath and the answers are formally transcribed by a court reporter.

Resolution of the Case

If the parties do not reach a settlement agreement, and the matter is not disposed of by motion, the case will proceed to trial. At the trial, the attorneys for both sides will present evidence, question witnesses and make arguments supporting their clients' positions. Either a judge or jury will decide the issues and the judge will enter a judgment. One or both of the parties can appeal the decision.

As an alternative to trial, the parties may voluntarily agree to resolve all their issues through alternate dispute resolution (ADR) such as mediation or arbitration. In some FELA cases, the judge may order that the parties go through mediation and hold mandatory settlement conferences in an effort to resolve the claim before trial.

Talk to an Attorney

A lawsuit can take from as little as a few months to as long as a few years. Generally speaking, the less money at stake, and the more issues that can be resolved before trial, the smoother and faster your FELA claim will go. A knowledgeable attorney at Derzon & Menard, S.C in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, will be with you every step along the way.

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DISCLAIMER: This site and any information contained herein are intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Seek competent legal counsel for advice on any legal matter.

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