Recently, an injured railroader who was handling his work injury directly with the railroad called for free legal advice. He stated that in addition to a very low settlement offer, the railroad claim agent promised to send him for vocational rehabilitation training.
However, the claim agent never put anything down in writing for the injured railroader. The railroader further stated that after he accepted the low offer, the claim agent shortly thereafter denied that an offer of vocational training was made or made part of the settlement.
In past articles, we have emphasized the importance of keeping written notes for your attorney as part of managing the on-the-job injury process. For us, your railroad accident attorneys, these notes are critical tool for keeping track of your day to day life from the time you are injured to when you reach maximum medical recovery. The diary can help us document accurately your recovery and identify the pain and suffering that you experienced as a result of your injury. (See Straight Track - A Paper Trail is Everything for an Injured Railroader)
But your notes for your attorney are only one part of the process of creating a paper trail. Another critical part of the paper trail is documenting your conversations with the railroad - from a supervisor to a company doctor to a claim agent.
COVER YOUR BACKSIDE
In any type of business transaction or negotiations, getting something in writing is a common sense approach to guarantee that the other party to the deal doesn’t back away from his position. Lawyers refer to this technique of preserving a position by getting it in writing as "memorializing the conversation." Others call it simply, "covering your butt".
Although an individual wants to believe that he has established a working / trusting relationship with the other party to the transaction, we advise all railroaders to "memorialize" their discussions with any and all railroad supervisors no matter what the topic of conversation. For example, after you end a telephone conversation with your supervisor, jot down the main points of the conversation in a short letter or email to the officer confirming what was discussed. Further, remember to always make a copy of the letter for your records, and ours, and note the date you mailed it to the railroad.
GEAR UP FOR FORMAL INVESTIGATION
You must further understand that if you suffer a work injury the railroad will probably schedule a formal investigation. Moreover, in all likelihood, you will be disciplined by the railroad because of the injury. Hence, it is again important to document what is said to you by each railroad officer at the time of the work injury.
Your written documentation to the railroad can be used at the formal investigation to show how you were denied a fair and impartial investigation as well as confirm the railroad's harassment tactics against you because of your work injury. If your grievance goes to a Public Law Board or arbitration panel, the paper trail can also be beneficial to your railroad union representatives in their arguments before the arbitrator.
WRAP IT UP BY WRITING IT UP
Creating a paper trail is another way to protect yourself and your family, and to ensure that when the railroad tells you something it will be more difficult for the railroad to deny at some future point.
Memorializing conversations with a railroad supervisor, claim agent or other official is of critical importance. Negotiations take time and railroads are oftentimes slow to respond to employee demands. Time clouds memories, making recollections of events and conversations sometimes different and/or difficult.
By writing letters and creating the necessary paper trail, the incremental steps of your discussions with the railroad will be preserved, and you will be in a better position to assert your rights and protect your family's interests.
In closing, we believe the best course of action is to contact Hoey & Farina, your FLEA Designated Legal Counsel. Regardless of your situation, we, the attorneys and staff at Hoey & Farina, will make every effort to answer your questions and provide legal assistance. Contact us at (888) 425-1212. You may not need an attorney, but you can always use free legal advice.