If you’re a railroader injured on the job, you have to deal with many issues. Your first concern should be to obtain the proper medical attention that you require. If you are unable to return to work right away, how you are going to get paid and by whom becomes a major concern. Does the RR offer a wage continuation plan or do you have to file with the Railroad Retirement Board for sick benefits? These are questions that an experienced FELA attorney can answer.
The first several days after an on the job injury can set the tone for your entire claim. Many mistakes are made by workers who first talk to the company’s claim representatives before they consult an attorney. Please do not rush to select just any attorney and don’t attempt to deal with the claims representative before you get legal advice. An experienced RR attorney can help you navigate through a very critical time after your injury.
While nothing prevents injured railroaders or their families from negotiating directly with the companies claim representatives, the facts suggest this is not a good idea. A survey done over a one-year period by the Association of American Railroads found that 85 percent of cases were settled directly between the railroad and the injured employee. However, in reality, these employees are getting much lower settlements than those who hire attorneys. The majority of the cases settled by unrepresented employees, 71%, settled for $5000 or less. However, 82% of injured railroaders who received higher settlements, particularly over $75000 had a lawyer working for them.
This is a complex area of law, governed by its own federal statute, called Federal Employers Liability Act, FELA. Having experienced legal counsel greatly increases an injured railroader’s chance of receiving the most compensation possible from the company. Remember the company Claim Representative is trained to defeat your claim and pay you as little as possible.
Because legal representation is so important, what should you consider before hiring a FELA lawyer? Here are some tips:
- Look for experience: Do not just hire a personal injury lawyer. Railroader injuries are covered exclusively by FELA, which requires specialized legal knowledge to navigate. Any attorney you engage must be intimately familiar with that area of the law.
- Engage a full-time FELA lawyer: The lawyer you hire should have FELA experience. More importantly, the majority of their work should be handling FELA cases. This ensures they are current on all aspects of the law and recent court precedent. A full-time FELA attorney will be able to provide a much better estimate of the value of your case and what it will take to secure a favorable settlement.
- Don’t Pay Up Front: Experienced and competent FELA lawyers take cases on a contingency basis. That means the client does not have to put down any money up front to hire the lawyer or firm. You can engage the best attorney available without worrying about how much you will be out of pocket.
Deciding to hire an attorney to represent you for a work-related injury against a railroad is absolutely necessary if you want to obtain fair value for what you have lost. Find an attorney who has dealt with railroads and fully understands how your injury occurred and why the RR is responsible. Having quality legal representation, however, increases the likelihood of a larger recovery, and ensures your rights are protected through the entire process.
Sommers Schwartz attorneys Arvin Pearlman and Benjamin Wilensky provide dedicated representation to injured railroaders. Please feel free to contact us today if you would like to discuss your situation.