What should I do if I am injured?

If you are injured, your first priority must be to obtain the best medical treatment from doctors of your choice. The railroad will try to steer you to a work clinic or industrial facility. If you cannot drive, you can insist that the railroad take you to the facility of YOUR choice. See our section on “You And Your Doctor.”

When you are able, you must immediately contact your local union representatives and designated legal counsel for necessary and valuable advice regarding your rights under your collective bargaining agreement and the FELA. See our section on “If You Are Injured.”

You do not have to fill out an accident report until you are of sound body and mind. DO NOT allow the claims agent to pressure you to fill out the report while you are in pain, shock or under the influence of medication. Agree to fill out the report when you are in better condition. See our section on “Accident Reports.”

Do not give a recorded or written statement to the railroad. The injured party is not required to give a statement under any rule or law. Statements are of such legal significance that you should always consult your union representatives and designated legal counsel.

The railroad can and will use all statements against you.

If possible, note any defects, unsafe practices, defective maintenance and other errors that contributed to your injuries. Determine if the railroad failed to do something it should have done, or did something it should not have done. If possible, take pictures of any conditions that contributed to your injuries. You cannot count on the railroad to preserve evidence. See our section on “If You Are Injured.”

Also see our section on past “Destruction of Evidence” in railroad cases.

What is my FELA case worth?

This is an important question for you to ask your attorney, but you should be leery of any attorney who provides you an answer before he has fully analyzed your case. It is impossible to give a current or potential client an honest answer to this question without a detailed interview with the client, a review of the facts surrounding the accident, an analysis of the state and federal laws at issue, and a full understanding of the medical history and prognosis.

What is the FELA?

The Federal Employers’ Liability Act was passed by Congress in 1908, for the purpose of providing compensation and protective rights to railroad employees who are injured on the job. It enables injured employees to bring claims directly against the railroad for damages when it can be shown that the railroad negligently caused the injury. See our section on the FELA.

Do I need an attorney for my FELA case?

It is our experience that the railroad will take your claim more seriously if you have retained an attorney. Although not all cases require an attorney, you should contact designated legal counsel, including Hildebrand McLeod & Nelson LLP if you are injured while working on the railroad. We will provide a consultation free of charge.

Will I be disciplined for hiring an FELA attorney?

No. The railroad cannot discipline you for hiring an attorney. Stand strong against company intimidation and contact designated legal counsel and your local union representatives if you are injured.

How much time do I have to file my FELA lawsuit?

You have three years to bring a lawsuit under the FELA. If you are suffering a cumulative trauma injury, you must be particularly aware of this limitation. See our section on Cumulative Trauma injuries.

How long does it take to resolve my FELA claim?

This depends on a variety of factors, including your injuries, continuing treatment, the complexity of the case and the availability of the court system. We try to process cases as quickly as possible with the maximization of your claim in mind. Where trial is required, cases may take longer to resolve.

Is my claim more valuable if I hire an FELA attorney?

It is our experience, and statistics will confirm, that injured railroad employees recover significantly more if they retain designated legal counsel. Experienced FELA attorneys such as those at Hildebrand McLeod & Nelson LLP add value to your claim because they have experience standing up to the railroad and investigating claims, and can debunk many railroad “defenses” that other less experienced attorneys might believe.

There are exceptions to this premise, but you can be sure that the claims agents working for the railroad are not making it a priority to maximize your claim.

Do I have to give a statement?

No. You are under no obligation under any law or rule to provide a written or oral statement (except the accident report) to the railroad in the event you are injured, and you should absolutely refuse to do so until you have been advised by designated legal counsel and your union representatives and they suggest you give a statement if there is a special reason to do so. See our section on Accident Reports.

Do I have to fill out an accident report?

Yes — however — you do not have to fill out an accident report until you are of sound body and mind. Do not allow the claims agent to pressure you to fill out the report while you are incapable of doing so, due to pain, shock or the influence of medication. Agree to fill out the report when you are in better condition. See our section on Accident Reports.

Should I accept monetary advances from the railroad?

It depends. You must remember that nothing is free. If the railroad provides advances, they will demand repayment when you resolve your case and they maintain a lien to that effect.

Claims agents will demand that you give a statement before any advances are to begin. In the statement, they will try to create evidence to which they will use to limit or defeat your recovery. If you are able to make due on other sources of income while you are off injured, we recommend you do so to remain financially independent of the claims department.

We have always urged railroad employees to make sure they have appropriate disability insurance at all times. Financial independence will free you to make appropriate legal decisions. Contact your union for a list of appropriate providers.

What medical information do I need to provide the railroad?

You need to provide regular medical updates to the railroad. The railroad cannot harass you and your doctor by requiring excessive and extensive reports. That is, a rule of thumb is to provide the railroad with a single sheet medical progress report once a month or so, as you are presenting to your treating doctor. For more detailed information, see our section on “You And Your Doctor.”