The most important thing to do after an on-duty railroad accident is to get medical care that you need with your own doctors. You DO NOT have to see the railroad’s “doctor” and you can pick the doctor of your choice. Seeing a company chosen doctor can be one of the worst decisions you make in regards to your claim. The reason is simple–to determine how badly injured you are, it takes running tests; a doctor that wants more business from a large railroad company will not want to run the bill up on that railroad company and he may be reluctant to recommend expensive tests for you. It’s easier for him to just delay you and ‘wait and watch’ in the hopes you may get better, than to actively run expensive tests to make sure you know the full extent of your injuries.
You absolutely can and should go to your own doctor and the railroad is legally required to pay for it
You pay your premiums and the railroad pays part of your premiums for your medical insurance. Under the collective bargaining agreement that you have with the union, the railroad is responsible for covering your medical treatment. However, they’re not allowed to pick your doctor and they’re not allowed to “authorize treatment.” If you have a claims agent or one of your supervisors tell you, “I’m sorry, you can’t get your MRI,” please know that you need to do two things. You need to call a lawyer who specializes in railroad work and you need to document this conversation. What the railroad is telling you is false. They cannot deny you medical treatment. Doing so is breaking the law.
Getting the proper medical care after your injury
The most important thing to do after a railroad accident is to get the medical care that you need with your own doctors. If you request medical treatment from the railroad, they have to immediately provide that to you. They are not allowed to deny you medical treatment after you’re injured. They’re not allowed to say, “Are you sure? Do you want to wait? Maybe tomorrow. We can’t take you right now.” None of those things they can do. That is whistleblower protection.
If you have a railroad employer that does not allow you to go to the doctor or to the hospital after an accident, you need to speak with an attorney immediately.
Getting the company to pay the doctor
Railroad workers are often concerned that their railroad employer will stop their medical treatment. Under the FELA, the railroad cannot pick your doctors and they also do not authorize treatment, which means they legally cannot stop your treatment.
Tell the doctor’s office you are NOT workers comp
The doctor’s office will probably ask you if you’re Workers’ Comp. You are not. Many of the doctor’s offices have no idea what FELA is, so you will need to tell them to talk to the nurse case managers at the railroad about getting paid. Bottom line, the railroad pays for the medical treatment but they don’t control your treatment.
Again, this is another reason why it’s important to talk to an attorney, sooner rather than later, who can coordinate with your medical providers to let them know how this law works.
Tell your doctor the full story of how your accident happened
Once you’re able to see your own doctor, make sure to give them a full history of what happened. Tell them about your injuries and how they occurred. It’s important to give your doctors a full history so you have documentation in your doctor’s notes that say exactly what happened to you on the date of your accident and what parts of your body were injured in an accident. Make sure to give a complete and accurate history to your doctors. Make sure to give exact details of each body part that hurts and exactly how the accident happened.
It is also very important that you explain to your doctor exactly how the accident and injury happened.
Unfortunately, the minute an injury or accident happens, the Railroad circles the wagons and puts you on the other side of the tracks. Their goal is to control the evidence and the story of what happened to blame you. As a result, it is extremely important that you seek medical attention from your own doctor, and report to your doctor exactly what happened.
When seeing your doctor, do not be pressured to let the railroad managers talk to your doctor. Just because the Railroad pays the bills does not mean that management can talk to your doctor. Simply tell your doctor you do not want management in the examining room.
Keeping your company in the loop regarding your treatment
Because the railroad is your employer, it has a right to know that you’re out of work receiving treatment. There are certain forms you will need to fill out for your company so that they are kept informed. If you don’t provide updates to your company regarding your medical treatment, they can charge you with absenteeism and then terminate your employment.
Again, it’s important to talk to someone that knows about how the railroads work in injury claims in order to protect you. I tell clients all the time you have to remember that the railroad protects itself. You need someone to protect you.