Comparison of Employee Injury Claims Under Federal and State Laws

RCED-86-202: Published: Aug 11, 1986. Publicly Released: Sep 11, 1986.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO compared the National Railroad Passenger Corporation's (Amtrak) costs for claims settled under the Federal Employees' Liability Act (FELA) with the costs for claims under state workers' compensation systems. GAO selected Connecticut, the state with the highest workers' compensation benefits, and Indiana, the state with the lowest benefits, to compare with FELA.

GAO found that Amtrak's payments were greater under FELA than they would have been under Connecticut's rules for all disability categories other than permanent total disability, and under Indiana's rules for all categories. Although both systems pay for employees' medical and rehabilitation costs, FELA provides broader coverage than the states' systems. Where FELA is a negligence statute and determines damages through negotiation, state compensation systems establish a fixed schedule of benefits based on the specific injury and duration of disability. One key factor that controls the amount of compensation an injured employee receives in each state is the classification of the disability as temporary, permanent partial, permanent total or fatality. In 1984, 41 percent of FELA claimants had an attorney represent them during their negotiations, while 4 percent of Connecticut's and 6 percent of Indiana's claimants had attorneys.

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