The Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA) is a federal law that was enacted in recognition of the need to protect railroad workers from the numerous dangers that they face on a day to day basis in the course of their employment. Unlike most employees, railroad workers do not file for workers’ compensation. Instead, FELA creates a claims process under which injured railroad employees, or the family of an employee killed in the course of their duties may collect compensation from the employing railroad company. The law requires that railroad companies provide a reasonably safe place of work, and if an employee is injured as a result of the railroad’s failure of this duty, then the employee will be able to collect damages through FELA for the injury they suffered. If you or a loved one was injured in an accident during the course of work as a railroad employee, the process of collecting damages will begin with the FELA claim.
What to do if you are a railroad employee who is injured at work
If you suffer a workplace injury, the first thing you should do is seek medical attention. In serious cases, this is not something that will be up for debate, but even in injuries that are not as severe, you should see a doctor. Not only is it important to protect your health and treat the injury, but much of your FELA claim will depend on the injury you suffered and its severity. If you wait to see a doctor, the serious nature of your injury could be questioned based on your seeming lack of urgency.
Be sure to report your injury, and that your supervisor has created a formal report. If you are questioned and asked for a statement, be cautious. Your choice of words can be manipulated by representatives of your employer or their insurer in order to weaken your claim or lower the amount of damages that you collect.
You should reach out to your union representative, as he or she can likely help you with the process. Find out which disability or supplemental disability benefits programs are available to you, it is possible that your union bargained for certain disability benefits.
Be sure to document everything possible related to the incident that caused your injury, and to you injury itself. Take photos of the accident scene, or have someone take them as soon as possible, get the names and contact information of anyone who witnessed the incident, and photograph your visible injuries. Keep records detailing all of the costs that you incur as a result of your injury, and inability to work.
When to consult with an attorney
FELA allows you to file a claim with your employer, or to file a state or federal lawsuit. While employees sometimes believe that filing with their employer will save them money, time and inconvenience, the decision to do this should be made cautiously. Employers and their insurance companies will be working to lower the amount of money you receive from your claim, and will possibly try to argue that you were negligent, and therefore should not collect as much for your injury. You may also be offered a settlement claim that looks appealing just because it is easy to sign off and get the benefits. This is likely a mistake, as anything you are initially offered is going to be carefully calculated by the insurance company to be less than what you could receive if you file a claim. In short, the battle between one injured worker and a whole company of professionals trained in handling insurance claims and equip with surveillance methods, detectives, investigators and their own attorneys, is not exactly a fair one.
You can consult with an attorney for free, and have your case evaluated in order to determine whether there is a better course of action for you to take. The sooner you speak with someone who can represent you and advocate for your rights, the better. Waiting too long can mean making mistakes by signing things you are not required to, or giving statements when you are not ready to, or agreeing to arrangements that are not in your best interests. Hiring an attorney means having someone on your side who knows what information to gather, and what remedies are available based on your case specific facts. With so much at stake, it is important to take the time to ensure you are doing everything possible to protect your rights, and pursue the compensation that you are entitled to.
Contact Stern Law, PLLC for A Free Consultation
At Stern Law, PLLC, we have compassionate and caring attorneys ready to work with you in order to find the best strategy for seeking compensation and for protecting injured railroaders’ rights. Contact Stern Law, PLLC today at (844) 808-7529 for a free consolation with an experienced attorney.