FELA is not workers' compensation.
In 1908, the US Congress passed The Federal Employers' Liability Act (FELA) in an effort to protect railroad workers and their families after a serious injury or death. Whether you are an engineer, brakeman, switch man, dispatcher, or any other kind of railroad employee, the FELA is designed to protect you. However, the FELA is different from state workers' compensation laws and state-based negligence laws. You must show negligence to win your case under the FELA, unlike workers' compensation laws which are no-fault.
The FELA has grown and evolved over the years. It provides strong protection to injured railroad workers who know their rights and are prepared to protect those rights.
Your employer is not on your side after a railroad injury.
Railroads can be far more aggressive in defending themselves from injury claims than most workers expect. As soon as you are hurt, the company will start using numerous tactics to minimize your claims that you were hurt or that it was the company’s fault. Even while you’re still in the emergency room, company representatives and insurance adjusters will be preparing their defense against your potential injury claim. This is why it’s crucial to understand your rights as a railroad employee as soon as possible after you or a family member is hurt at work.
You are not required to hire a union-designated lawyer.
If you were injured working for a railroad, then you may have heard of "union-designated" lawyers, and you may think you are required to hire a lawyer to represent you who has been chosen by someone higher up in the union.
All it is means to be "union-designated" is that the lawyer or law firm was selected by the representatives of your union to represent members of the union in cases involving the railroads. "Union designated" says absolutely nothing about the competence, reputation, or track record of the lawyer. All it says is that the lawyer has figured out how to get the "right" people to give him a "designation."
If you prefer to choose your own attorney, make sure to hire the right attorney for you and your case. Click here for a list of seven questions to ask before hiring an attorney.
To learn how VB Attorneys can help you, give us a call at 877-724-7800.
You can choose your own doctor to treat your railroad injuries.
You have the right to choose your own doctor for treatment of your railroad injuries, but you may still have to see a doctor of the railroad’s choosing at least once. However, you need to be very careful. Although they may have a lot of experience with railroad injury claims and you may trust that all doctors can see the severity of your injuries and the gravity of what happened to you, you should know that:
- The doctor works for the railroad, not for you. It may be the doctor’s sole job to evaluate employees who have been hurt while working for the railroad. The doctor you see may not even have a practice outside of company medical exams, and they’re generally chosen for the job because the railroad trusts them to document findings that are favorable for the company.
- The purpose of the exam is to find evidence that wrecks your injury claim. If you’ve chosen to see your own doctor about your injuries, the one or two company exams you may be required to attend are the company’s only chance to build medical evidence against your claim. It isn’t unusual to find that the results of the exam skew the truth or make it look like you’re exaggerating about how bad your situation is.
Before you agree to see any doctor recommended by the railroad, talk to an attorney about your rights and how to prepare. Although you should always be completely honest about your injuries, it’s easy to make a small mistake or fall into a trap that makes it easier for the railroad to avoid taking responsibility for what happened.
Protecting your medical records is important after a railroad work injury.
You may not think much about your medical privacy when you see your family doctor for a checkup, but it becomes a major concern when you’ve been hurt at work. In the case of a railroad injury, it’s especially important because:
- The company may attempt to defend itself from accusations that it was responsible for what happened and how you got hurt.
- The insurance company may try to aggressively minimize how much it must pay because you have been hurt on the job.
The railroad and insurance companies’ ability to minimize or defend against your claim often hinges on how much information they have about you, your personal history, and your medical history. You can control who has access to your medical records with a medical release-of-information form.
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Do you have questions about your legal rights after a railroad work injury or fatal railroad accident? For immediate help, contact our nationally-recognized Houston-based work injury law firm by calling 877-724-7800 or by completing the brief form on this page.
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