If you are a railroader who has been injured on the job, you may be entitled to receive compensation under the rights provided by the Federal Employers Liability Act. The FELA, pursuant to 45 U.S.C. Sec. 51, covers all employees of a railroad carrier whose duties as an employee further interstate or foreign commerce or directly and substantially affect such commerce. Below are some basic guidelines to help you better handle your claim.
1. Determine all factors of Railroad Fault
FELA was designed to make railroad work safer by making injuries costly to the railroad. This is true only if the injuries are a result of the railroad’s negligence as legally defined, consisting of: unsafe working conditions, defective equipment or the negligence of another railroad employee.
Accidents don’t happen without cause. Consider very carefully who and/or what was at fault in causing your injury. Also, remember that the working conditions or equipment may have seemed normal when you were hurt, but are often found by an experienced FELA attorney to be legally unsafe or defective. Be sure to list every legally unsafe factor contributing to your injury. Only then can you be fully compensated under the FELA.
Don’t be misled; unless you are an expert in FELA law, you should consult an experienced, competent FELA attorney to help you analyze the facts and how they apply to this special federal law. Many Railroad injuries are often the result of a myriad of errors and bad decisions made by the railroad. Uncovering these legal mistakes can significantly increase the value of your case. Generally, only an experienced FELA attorney can find and expose them all. Also, remember that if you are determined to be legally at fault, your recovery diminishes proportionately.
2. Do not sign or make any other statement other than the accident report
Fill out only the accident report required by the Book of Rules. List all legally important factors of railroad fault. Obtain a copy of everything you sign (write on each page: “I am signing this with the understanding that I will immediately receive a copy”). Do not make any other verbal or written statements. If the claims department requests additional statements, contact an experienced FELA attorney.
Although you have to fill out an accident report as soon as possible, you may be able to delay its completion if you are under medication or suffering intense pain. Do not hesitate to ask a union officer or FELA attorney for help in this area. The Powell Law firm will be happy to go over all the facts of your accident with you, without any obligation whatsoever.
3. Keep an Accurate Record
Be prepared. Gather specific, detailed information immediately after the accident, and keep a written record of the following:
• Exact details of what happened
• All legal factors that caused the accident (including responsibility of every railroad department’s contribution to the working conditions and equipment that resulted in your injury)
• If permitted (check with your local union and Book of Rules first), take photographs of key equipment and, if possible, the accident site. Keep the negatives for any and all photographs you take.
• Document your post-accident condition; have yourself photographed after you have been treated and released. Be sure to document any medical devices your injuries require, such as casts, braces, crutches, canes, etc. Keep the negatives for any and all photographs you take.
• All witnesses — names and addresses
• All statements (do not delay: obtain statements before witnesses forget important details)
• Injury — nature and full extent
• Result of injury (both job loss and personal loss)
• All medical treatment received
4. Know Your FELA Rights
If you prove the railroad legally negligent, you are entitled to have a jury of your peers award fair and full compensation for:
• All medical treatment — past, present and future
• Complete vocational evaluation
• Vocational retraining, if necessary
• Payment of money damages for:
• Wages lost — past, present and future
• Pain and Suffering — past, present and future
5. Understand the Claims Department Agenda
When dealing with the claims department, keep in mind the following:
• The claims department is working for the railroad’s interest. The only way it can save the railroad money is to pay you less than your claim is really worth.
• The claims department often does not use truly independent physicians to evaluate your injury. They refer you to doctors whose opinions and attitudes benefit the railroad.
• The claims department will not release your medical findings to you, even though they are in close contact with your doctor.
• If at all possible, the claims department will either try to quick-settle your claim, or they will drag it out so the railroad can work behind the scenes to improve its case against you. This is especially likely if you do not have an FELA attorney actively representing you and protecting your interests.
6. Hire an Experienced FELA Attorney
As easy as it may sometimes seem, FELA Law is quite complicated. Consider that in the many years since its inception, this complex federal law has been interpreted thousands of times by various appellate courts of the land.
Fully protect and maximize your interests by hiring an experienced FELA attorney. Remember: the railroad has specialists in the form of the claims and law departments working for its side. Wouldn’t it be wise to consider hiring a specialist to work for your side? Federal and state laws protect you so that your job will never be in jeopardy because you hired an attorney.
Remember that your attorney fees are not paid out of your pocket, but are paid on a contingency basis as a relatively small percentage of your final settlement.
Also keep in mind that 70% of all railroad claims money is paid out to a small percentage* of injured railroaders — those who hire attorneys.
When you hire an attorney, you no longer have to deal directly with the claims department. A qualified FELA attorney will:
• Obtain copies of your medical records
• Schedule an independent medical exam as well as independent medical tests
• Schedule vocational testing and evaluation
• Obtain an economic assessment of your financial losses
• Conduct an in-depth investigation of your accident
If you are a railroader who has been injured on the job, Call Powell Law today for a free consultation.
AT THE POWELL LAW FIRM WE’RE COMMITTED TO PROVIDING YOU NOT ONLY WITH QUALITY LEGAL REPRESENTATION, BUT ALSO WITH EXCELLENT, INDIVIDUALIZED SERVICE. YOU DON’T HAVE TO NAVIGATE THE COMPLICATED — AND SOMETIMES MYSTIFYING — LEGAL PROCESS ALONE. WE’RE HERE TO BE YOUR CONNECTION TO THE LEGAL SYSTEM AND TO ADVOCATE FOR YOU FROM THE MOMENT YOU CALL US UNTIL YOUR CASE IS RESOLVED.