Railroaders’ Steps After An On-Duty Injury
The minute an injury 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. Use the following steps to protect you and your family:
1. GET MEDICAL ATTENTION
Take an ambulance if needed or get to your own doctor ASAP – Don’t wait!
2. GIVE COMPLETE & ACCURATE HISTORY TO YOUR DOCTORS
Make sure you give details of each body part that hurts and exactly how the accident happened.
3. DON’T BE PRESSURED TO LET RAILROAD MANAGERS TALK TO YOUR DOCTORS
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.
4. FILL OUT THE PERSONAL INJURY REPORT AS SOON AS POSSIBLE
Most carriers have a rule that the report must be filled out as soon as possible. Fill out as soon as you feel capable and do not let management fill out for you to sign. Always list ALL parts of your body that hurt and any defective conditions/equipment which caused the accident.
5. DO NOT GIVE A RECORDED STATEMENT TO CLAIMS DEPARTMENT
You are NOT legally required to give a statement and it benefits no one but the Railroad.
6. WRITE DOWN DETAILS OF THE ACCIDENT
Get names and phone numbers of any witnesses and co-workers to your accident. When you get home, write down all the details in a notebook while it is fresh in his mind.
Documenting your accident and your injury
If you’re able at the time of your accident, try to do the following:
- Take pictures of the location of the accident, especially if you were in a crossing accident.
- Take pictures of any machinery or equipment that contributed to your accident.
- Get the names, addresses, telephone numbers of any crew members or witnesses to your accident.
- Take photographs of any visible injuries before they heal.
In the months after your accident:
- Keep any records of your earnings that you’ve lost and any out of pocket expenses.
- Keep a pain journal to document your bad pain days or changes in your condition.
- Show your doctor the pain journal in order to properly document the extent of your pain and injury.
It’s important to document all of those things in the off-chance you file an injury claim. Keeping a record will go a long way in building your case and getting you the compensation you need.
7. APPLY FOR RAILROAD RETIREMENT BOARD SICKNESS BENEFITS AND DISABILITY BENEFITS
It takes time for these benefits to start and your doctors will need to fill out forms if you are going to be out longer than 30 days, so apply sooner rather than later. These benefits can help you supplement your lost income while you are out injured.
RAILROAD UNEMPLOYMENT AND SICKNESS BENEFITS
The Railroad Retirement Board (“RRB”) provides benefits to railroad employees to restore their lost wages when they have period of unemployment or sickness. These benefits are based on biweekly claims that are filed with the Railroad Retirement Board, and certain funds are paid directly to railroad workers for unemployment or for sickness. The benefit year for any of these benefits of unemployment or sickness begins July 1.
In order for a railroader to qualify, you must have earnings of at least $3,900.00 in any calendar year. If you don’t meet those requirements, but have at least 10 years of service, you may still be able to qualify based on certain conditions.
It is important to apply for your sickness benefits as soon as possible after an injury. Although you have to wait four (4) consecutive days of sickness or injury before the benefits will begin, it is important to start that process as quickly as possible, because your physician that has seen you for your injury will have forms that are required to be filled out by the Railroad Retirement Board. Your doctor will need to complete the statement of sickness, which is part of the application.
Right now, the maximum daily benefit rate for sickness benefits is $78.00 per day. That daily rate will rise to $80.00 in July, 2020. You can obtain an application for sickness benefits on our website, www.poolsonoden.com. Your union should also have a sickness benefit form. The form number is Form SSI-1A.
Even if you don’t need the sickness benefit application now, the Railroad Retirement Board suggests keeping an application handy and making sure that your family has access to it and knows how to use it. Please contact our office for any help filling out the form, or explaining the form, and how the benefits work.
Once these forms are completed, you must mail them to the Railroad Retirement Board’s headquarters in Chicago within ten (10) days from you become sick or injured. Once the board receives these forms, they will process your application and determine if you are eligible for sickness benefits. Once the board processes your application, the Railroad Retirement Board will provide you with biweekly claims, which will be made available online, and they will be mailed to you.
Please contact our law firm for any help applying for sickness benefits immediately after your injury. Many railroaders have experienced a time in their careers when they have been furloughed and unable to work. For instance, many Railroaders were furloughed during the Covid-19 Pandemic. If you are furloughed, then there are unemployment benefits that you may be eligible for. Please contact our office with any questions about unemployment benefits and if you would be eligible for those benefits as well.
If you receive sickness benefits and have a claim or lawsuit against the railroad where you recover monies either through a verdict or settling of your personal injury claim, the RRB has a lien for those benefits. Meaning, if you recover money from a lawsuit or claim, the RRB can make a claim to recover those benefits previously paid. Those benefits will be paid back from any proceeds you receive in settlement.
In addition to your sickness benefits, railroaders with certain months of service may also be eligible for a disability annuity or a total disability. If you have 240 months of service, which is the equivalent of 20 years, and you are unable to perform your regular railroading job, you may qualify for what the Railroad Retirement Board calls an “occupational disability” or an “occupational annuity.” You will have to submit an application that details all of your medical history from your physicians that support your claim that you are not able to work.
On the other hand, a total disability is available if, after you have been in railroad service for 120 months or 10 years, you have a permanent condition that does not allow you to perform any substantial gainful employment. This means that, in addition to your railroading job, you would not be able to do any other job that you could make money doing.
For more information about Railroad Retirement Board disability annuities or total disability annuities, the Railroad Retirement Board’s website has a wealth of information.
U.S. Railroad Retirement Board
William O. Lipinski Federal Building
844 North Rush Street
Chicago, IL 60611-1275
Toll Free: (877) 772-5772
TTY: (312) 751-4701
Directory: (312) 751-4300
You can always contact our office for more information and questions about these differences and nuances of railroading benefits.