Sunday, September 21, 2008
Over the last 18 years my firm has successfully resolved dozens of railroad employee accident cases. These cases involve employees of the railroad who have been hurt on the job.They are generally referred to as FELA cases. Unlike most workers in the United States who are prohibited (usually by state law)from bringing lawsuits against their employers railroad workers for the most part can sue their employer for injuries sustained while at work. In New York these cases are generally against Amtrak, Metro-North and The Long Island RailRoad. While these claims are governed by Federal Statutes there are many similarities to the run of the mill personal injury cases. In an effort for all rail employees to understand the these cases and their rights we provide our railroad friends the keys to a successful claim.
1.Your Employer Knows You Better Than Anyone- This would not ordinarily be an issue for most injured parties who are hurt on the job since most people cant sue their employer. However since railroad employees can sue their employers then the railroad becomes the defendant and yes the adversary is the enemy. What does this mean? It means that your employer(and now the defendant)has all your personal information, knows when you screwed up in the past, has all your job evaluations, can easily speak to your co-workers and in general has better access to your life then most defendants. In fact they probably will know more than your lawyer ,at least, at the start of your case. As a result tell your lawyer everything anything about your job and anything that could possibly be relevant. We spend 2-3 hours with our railroad clients at the initial interview to make sure we know as much as the railroad could possibly know. Do not talk to your co-employees after the accident about the accident. From the moment you are injured you have to remember the railroad is your adversary
2You Know Your Employer Better Than Anyone-Thats right! Turn the tables on them. Who knows the inner workings of the railroad better than you? You know the names of management,gang supervisors,and others that can be extremely helpful in the legal battle. You know the policies, rules and regulations which the railroad fails to enforce. You may know the reasons why the railroad may have needed to take a shortcut or may have rushed to finish a job. You may know if other employees have been similarly injured. Let your lawyer know about all these things even if you do not believe its important.Our clients have told us information that has saved their cases and which we may not have otherwise obtained.
2.Talk To Your Local Union Representative Immediately- There is a reason that you pay union dues. My office works with several unions connected to the railroad like the local IBEW and it is imperative that you work closely with your rep. He will help you with your medical, time out and most importantly the grief you will undoubtedly get from management. Yes, the railroad knows that you are going to bring a legal claim and in all probability instead of being helpful to you they will try and make things difficult. Your lawyer cant always help you from the daily B.S. you will get from the railroad but your union rep. can be your daily protector. Work closely with him and things will be easier. Your lawyer will also need to work with him and its alot easier if you have a close relationship with him. One last thing: You are almost certain to be charged with a violation and your rep. is the only thing that stands between you and some penalty.
3.Take Pictues- Unfortunately you have been injured and you are the best person to take pictures of the scene. Now let make something clear. I do not want you looking for a camera while your skin is on fire from some electrical explosion. However, once you leave the scene of the accident the only way for your lawyer to get pictures of the accident scene is for your co-workers to take some pictures(and they can be unreliable)or to get an Order from the Court. My office has done this numerous times but it does take time(1-2 days to 1-2 weeks)and this is important time in which the scene can change and repairs done. The point here is to always keep a camera around and if an accident should occur you(if you are able) or your co-workers can take immediate pictures. However, all that said and done if you cant get pictures your lawyer will get them.
4.Do Not Sign Anything Without Your Representative- Your going to have to work with the railroad investigators when they try to figure out what happened. Its your obligation to assist in that investigation but never give a statement or sign anything without talking to your local rep. or your lawyer. They generally cant tell you not cooperate but they can be there when you give your statement which is likely to be used against you in both your legal claim and you internal railroad proeedings.
5.They Are Watching You- So one of my dear railroad clients who was badly injured in an accident and hurt his back. He claimed that his life was ruined and before his deposition when we were preparing I asked him if he does and of his former activities like running. He said that he cant run. He was very upset about that. He testified at his deposition that he could not run. He testified he could not even try. Guess what? You got it. After the deposition we get in the mail a CD fro the railroad's attorney a movie. Yes it was my client running on a track(slow jog) after the accident and before his deposition. In my opinion that cost the client alot of money. The two lessons: NEVER LIE and ALWAYS REMEMBER THEY ARE WATCHING YOU.
6.Keep Your Medical Treatment Active- Most railroad employees are tough and have put their bodies through hell.Sometimes the injuries from an accident although serious to most of us is considered minor to the railroad employee. Remember why you are the seeking the advice of a lawyer. Compensation. Nothing to be ashamed of. However your lawyer cant do the best job possible if you not keeping your medical appointments or if you are trying to be Mr. tough guy/gal by not complaining about your pain. If your medical problems are not getting better then it is your obligation to make sure that you are getting the best advice possible. If you need to change doctors then you need to do that. If surgery is recommended then you should strongly consider it. Your lawyer cant "re-open" your case after its settled because you decided to have your surgery 5 years later. Also, you can be certain that the "railroad doctors" are going to find you ok. Your lawyer cant fight these doctors if you decided that you were only going to therapy once a month instead of 3x a week as prescribed by your doctor. Follow your doctors orders and if you are not happy or if you want a different doctor for some reason then tell your lawyer and maybe he or she can help you find a better one.
Sunday, June 22, 2008
This is the first post on behalf of my firm Goldstein & Bashner and I thought what better way to begin then to simply state what I believe every accident victim should know before hiring a lawyer. I wonder how I would look for a lawyer if I were in an accident. I guess I would ask my family and friends for a referral. As a comparison if I were looking for a specialist in broken bones or brain injuries I would begin with the family and friends. But what if they did not know anybody or if they did should I take their word and look no further. Would I look in the Yellow Pages for a specialist? I don't think so and I don't think anybody should approach a search for an accident lawyer in the same manner. In Long Island which is a suburb of New York the rules which regulate a lawyer's conduct when attempting to solicit an accident victim are very strict. Without getting into detail you should never hire an attorney who either approaches you at an accident scene or who somehow manages to get your telephone number and calls you within hours after your accident. Lawyers have been punished for this behavior and you should not communicate with anybody who calls you without your permission. When searching for the right accident lawyer my number one piece of advice would be to meet them in person. You can tell a lot about a person when you meet them face to face. From how they address you to how they dress themselves. In my firm( http:www.eglaw.com ) we spend a great deal of time at the initial consultation. We believe it is at this point that we learn a lot about the client and the client has an opportunity to learn about us. Most clients never seem to ask the right questions of the lawyer that may be handling their recent automobile, train or other accident which has caused them to be in this unfortunate position.
The following questions should always be asked of your potential accident lawyer and the answers you get are equally important:
- Has your firm had experience with my type of case?
- What is your initial opinion of my case?(Most lawyers have some feeling about the case although it may change along the way as more facts are known)
- What kind of support staff will assist you with my case?(Is this a one man/woman show with no paralegals and only an answering machine)
- Does your firm have the financial resources to spend on my case?(Look my firm has spent 20, 30,40 and even 50 thousand on some cases. Is this firm ready to spend?)
- Does your firm have trial lawyers that can try the case if it does not settle?(My firm has several experienced trial lawyers and even has a co-counsel relationship with the top trial firm in New York City. Has your potential lawyer tried any cases and if not who are the lawyers the trial lawyers he has a co-counsel relationship with. Ask for names)
- What is the firms policy on telephone calls from clients?(Don't be offended if the lawyer says he only takes planned phone calls unless its an emergency.Likewise you want to know if the lawyer will get back to you within 24-48 hours.)
- Does the firm concentrate in only one geographical area?(If his office is in New York City has he handled cases in Long Island )
- Does the firm understand the time limitations on my case?(Sure most lawyers will say they do but do they really?Cases against the City,County,Port Authority and the railroad have different time limitations)
- How will the firm advise me of the status of my case?(Will your potential lawyer notify you in writing or call you?How often will you be advised of the status?)
- How often will we meet in person?(I know it sounds crazy but some clients I have met have never seen their lawyer. This is a sin. If you have not seen your lawyer you are asking for trouble)
- What if you decide not to handle my case?(At my firm we tell you up front or as soon as possible if we are not going forward with your case and we will tell you why. If your lawyer continues with excuses and has not decided if he is proceeding with your claim get rid of him)
- Will you tell me the truth?(Sounds crazy but ask the question and look at your lawyer when he says "of course I will tell you the truth". Look at his face you will know)
In the end it may just be chemistry. Your potential lawyer may have all the right answers but something inside tells you that this is not the right person. Go with how you feel. Also, maybe the lawyer did not have all the perfect answers but you feel "right" about this attorney. You feel comfortable with him. This is key. Most if not all of my clients retain my firm not only because the right answers are there but the chemistry is right.Let me know how you feel and visit my site at http://www.eglaw.com/