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Mistakes That Can Derail Your FELA Railroad Injury Case

Railroad workers' comp is different than most workers' comp cases so here's what you should avoid.

Workplace injuries for railroaders are handled differently from state workers’ compensation claims because the Federal Employer Liability Act classifies railroad workers as federal employees. Many railroad companies operate across state lines, including employee roster headquarters, which means that employee injury claims are settled under interstate commerce rules.

Railway companies are also licensed under the Federal Railway Administration, which makes the companies federal corporations as an additional aspect of business. This classification has a significant impact when employees are injured on the job, and the potential damages also include general damage compensation for pain-and-suffering that is not available under a standard state workers’ compensation injury claim.

Railroad companies are also not required to maintain workers’ compensation insurance policies, even though some do, and many times the primary opposing litigant is the actual railroad employer with no insurance company involved. This means that the only potential source of compensation is the employer, which can put the injured worker in an adversarial relationship with the company that provides their livelihood. This is always a precarious situation for an injured worker, and a situation that should include representation from a designated railroad injury claim legal professional who understands how to craft a case for maximum value.

Here are a few things all injured railroad workers should avoid doing before retaining an attorney:

Mistake #1: Dealing Directly with the Company

Many railroad workers have good relationships with company management officials and feel comfortable in their employment. However, when serious injuries happen, workers are often left incapable of working again, or at least in a diminished capacity.

Railroad company claims agents understand that they are not protected against non-economic general damage liability like state-based employers. This means the claim value potential for FELA injury claims is enhanced to the possibility for whole damages, which can also include lost income for the remainder of a working career when the injury results in a disability approval as well. The company claims agent can use any information they glean from direct contact against the claimant when a case goes to court.

Mistake #2: Admitting Fault to a Special Agent

One component of the railroad is industry that many people don’t understand is that they have an internal police agency classed as special agents. They typically investigate train accident scenarios, but they also serve as investigators for the company when workers are injured. Even if the agent does not conduct a formal investigation, it is never a good decision to answer any questions beyond any evidence associated with the accident report. And, when it could be necessary to answer a question, do not embellish.

Because the railroad company could be exposed to liability for long-term damages and potential additional punitive damages, the company has more legal defense power than a typical employer. This can also include comparative negligence arguments against the injured claimant, but an experienced railroad injury attorney will enforce the "featherweight" comparative negligence rule available to injured workers under FELA claims.

Mistake #3: Waiting to Contact a Designated Attorney

Union railroad workers will often have a designated attorney recommendation for handling railroad injury claims. Even a recoverable injury claim could be very valuable, and potential settlements can be better structured for the worker. Many times workers are injured on the job, but are very effective employees that the company would like to retain after the injury is rehabilitated. All railroad injury case attorneys understand they have better latitude than with a typical state-based workers’ comp claim, and the final outcome can be a good settlement for both parties. And, this can also help immediately in amiable injury situations.

Of course, serious long-term injuries mean the company will work diligently to lessen the claim value or may even deny in hopes the injured worker will go away or not retain an attorney. This is never a good decision because the company is liable under FELA, but it still takes an aggressive injury attorney to ensure whole damages are paid. This is especially true when safety violations by the company could result in punitive damages in a trial.

Always remember that one of the very best benefits of being a railroad employee is workplace injury coverage under the FELA legislation, especially for younger workers who are seriously injured in a very dangerous industry. Always retain a personal injury attorney who focuses their practice directly on railroad injury claims and has a solid track record of results for former injured workers.

If you’re a railroad employee who has been injured on the job, contact the experienced Tennessee personal injury attorneys at Gilreath and Associates for a consultation.

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