Sunday, September 21, 2008
Secrets To A Successful RailRoad Employee Accident Case
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.