If you are a railroader and you suffer an injury on the job, there are several steps you should take, as soon as you are able, in order to protect both your health and financial future. Obviously, if your injury is serious, you should seek immediate medical assistance. Additionally, as soon as you are able to, contact your union representative, report the injury to your supervisor, and fill out an accident report/injury statement. You should do this even if the injury seems minor or inconsequential, in case your symptoms worsen later.
It is crucial to understand that railroad management and the claims department typically will work together to protect the company’s interests – not yours. When answering any questions, whether verbally or via a form, make sure you fully understand the question.
Be sure to mention any facts or conditions that contributed to your accident, including unsafe equipment, lack of equipment, dangerous walking conditions, lack of manpower, lack of training, poor lighting, etc.
You also are not limited, in any way, in deciding from whom to seek treatment regarding your injury. While you may be required to undergo an examination by a company-approved doctor, you can seek treatment from any doctor you choose. Additionally, you have the right to retain an attorney and cannot be fired or otherwise disciplined for doing so.
It is highly advisable to gather whatever evidence you can about the accident itself. Take photos of your injuries, the site of the accident, and any faulty equipment, or ask a trusted co-worker to do it for you if you are unable to do so. Your co-workers also can serve as witnesses to the accident without fear of repercussion; this right is protected by federal law.
Finally, put down in writing all information regarding the accident – what you were doing, how the accident happened, the weather, how you feel, and so on – as soon as you are able, while the information is still fresh in your mind. Do not show any of this to the railroad.
Most importantly, don’t try to take on the railroad by yourself. Seek the aid an attorney knowledgeable about the Federal Employer’s Liability Act (FELA) and experienced in handling railroad injury cases to take your case and ensure you receive the fullest compensation you are owed under the law.