A significant number of railroaders are injured at work each year. Some injuries are minor while others are life altering. Not knowing what to do when injured could have catastrophic effects. Whether you’re a new hire or an old hand, read and familiarize yourself with what you should know about reporting a railroad injury. (Links in this article reference additional Straight Track articles on this subject and are found on our website at WWW.HOEYFARINA.COM.)
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW AND DO BEFORE AN INJURY
Personal injury reports are designed to help diminish a railroad’s liability and to establish that an injured railroader’s own actions caused the injury. Familiarizing yourself with example personal injury reports now can help prevent costly mistakes in the future.
Under the Federal Railroad Safety Act (FRSA) - Whistleblower Protection, you are protected against intimidation and retaliation when reporting a personal injury.
If you are injured on-duty, you are covered by the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA). Under the FELA, in order to be compensated for a work injury, you must prove the railroad’s negligence caused or contributed to the injury.
To prove the railroad is negligent, it is necessary to report unsafe conditions and/or defective equipment. Verbal reporting is not enough. Report unsafe conditions and/or defective equipment in writing, give a copy to your local union officers, and retain a copy for your records. If a railroader is injured or killed because the railroad failed to correct, repair or replace the unsafe condition or equipment, the documented notice will help establish the railroad’s negligence.
Lastly, you should have a plan in place with your family members to contact Hoey & Farina immediately. If you are seriously injured at work, a representative from Hoey & Farina can meet you and your family at the hospital or be available by phone to provide legal advice if the railroad insists you complete an injury report.
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW AND DO AFTER AN INJURY
An injury report should be completed as soon as possible after a work injury occurs. On most railroads, it’s considered a major rule violation for an injured railroader not to file, or fail to file timely, a personal injury report. Failing to file an injury report promptly creates doubt whether you were injured at work. Do not let a supervisor talk you out of reporting an injury. And, do not wait to report the injury to “see if the pain goes away on its own”.
The information you provide on your personal injury report may be used in a formal investigation and/or in your FELA claim. What you write and don’t write on the railroad’s injury report is important.
You should list ALL unsafe conditions and/or work procedures, defective equipment, or improper training that contributed to your work injury. Again, you have to prove the railroad was negligent. If you write “I’m not sure what happened” or “I think I tripped on something” you’re giving the railroad an opportunity to avoid its negligence and blame you.
You must list ALL possible injuries. Some injuries may seem significant at the time, but heal on their own. Other injuries may seem minor, but require surgery months later. If you wrote down you injured your ankle, but didn’t write down your neck because it didn’t feel that bad, later when you have surgery for a herniated cervical disc, the railroad will argue that the neck injury isn’t related to the incident because it wasn’t listed on the injury report.
Review the completed injury report before you sign it so you don’t miss answering any questions or writing down necessary information.
You should obtain a copy of the injury report after you sign it for you own records. If the railroad attempts to claim that no injury report was filed, you’ll have proof to the contrary. (Read Claim Agents’ Top 10 Lies and Do You Copy.) Moreover, one of the first questions asked by Hoey & Farina will be whether you have a copy of the injury report or gave a statement about the accident.
YOUR MEDICAL CARE
If your injury is serious and requires immediate medical attention, demand that you are taken to a hospital. (The FRSA states that the injured railroader himself must make the demand to the railroad.) After you have received medical care, if the railroad orders you to complete the injury report, be prepared to do so, but only after you have obtained legal advice from Hoey & Farina.
When you receive medical care, you have the right to privacy in the ER, as well as at your doctor’s office. If you do not want railroad representatives present when you are being treated at the hospital or by a doctor, request that they leave or ask the medical personnel to ask the railroad representatives to leave. And although you will likely be required to be examined by a doctor recommended by the railroad, on most railroads, you still have the right / option to treat with your own doctors. (Read Company Doctor – Medical Witness.)
It is important that you follow the medical treatment plan for your work injury. A bad decision on a “good day” could jeopardize your FELA claim if you are recorded on surveillance video doing things outside the doctor’s restrictions.
HOW TO PROTECT YOUR FUTURE
There have been many work place changes throughout the history of railroading. Most recently, for example, there are new regulations and rules restricting the use of cell phones and requirement regarding conductor / engineer certification. For all the things that have changed, some things remain the same - working on the railroad is a dangerous occupation. You have the right, however, to expect to work in a reasonably safe work environment. When the railroad fails to provide a reasonably safe work environment and you are injured, you have the right to retain experienced railroad injury lawyers.
Hoey & Farina has been successfully representing injured railroaders for many years and are committed to helping injured railroaders. (Read an injured railroader’s account of how Hoey & Farina helped him: Never Put Off Until Tomorrow… Reporting an Accident and how Hoey & Farina never gave up on another railroader’s difficult case: Jury’s “Not Guilty” Verdict Overturned by Federal Trial Judge.)