Should I give a statement to the Railroad’s claim agent?
DO NOT give a statement to the railroad claims agent or any supervisor/manager until you have sought counsel from your lawyer or union representative. There is nothing under the law that requires that you give a recorded or written statement to the railroad’s claim agent. You are not legally required to give any type of recorded statement and when your railroad claims agent asks for one, this should raise a bright red flag — he is looking out for the railroad and not you!
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Do the railroads do surveillance of their injured employees?
Yes. The railroads become “peeping Toms” after your accident to try and “catch” you doing activities not consistent with your injuries. For example, if you have a back injury and are restricted to only lifting 10 pounds, the railroad wants to catch you at the store lifting a 20-pound bag of dog food. Juries don’t like “peeping Toms” but dislike liars even more.
The important thing to remember is to be truthful about any activities you are doing while you are injured and to document how you feel after doing activities in your daily life. You may be able to get the groceries or dog food into your car, but then you may be in pain after. Be sure to follow the instructions of your doctor and if you have pain after certain daily activities, report them at your next appointment.
What happens if the railroad blames me for my accident or injuries?
FELA protects railroad workers, even if the worker is partially at fault.
The FELA has a provision called “contributory negligence” which means that the railroad can still be held liable for your injuries even if they are only 1% at fault. If a jury would determine that you were partially responsible for your accident or injury, the jury could reduce the award you receive by the amount you are responsible. For example, if the jury awards you $500,000 and believes that you contributed 10% to your injury, then your claim would be reduced by $50,000. So, don’t let the railroad claims agent tell you that you will not be entitled to any compensation if you were at fault. This is a scare tactic to keep you from receiving your full compensation.
Is the Vocational Rehabilitation program helpful?
No, it is a sophisticated tactic that is not designed to help an injured worker but rather helps the company.
The railroads like to offer “vocational rehabilitation services” to injured employees. Vocational Rehabilitation is typically a program that trains to help an injured individual return to his job or another job within his physical or mental restrictions. The railroad creates these vocational rehabilitation programs to offer jobs to injured workers within the company that are usually outside your craft and in another state. It is a smokescreen and is used at trial to make it appear that the railroad cares about its injured employees and it is the employees’ fault that he or she is not back at work. It is important that you speak with a FELA attorney to help you navigate the deceitfulness of these “helpful” programs.