One of the first rules that a new railroader will learn and veteran railroader's follow is to "Expect Movement of Trains on Any Track in Any Direction at Any Time." In other words, if you “expect the unexpected” while at work, you'll increase the chances that you'll go home safely at the end of every day. This saying can also be applied to being prepared financially in the event you suffer an on-the-job injury.
Unexpectedly you suffer a work injury. Now, not only do you have to be concerned about your recovery, but also how to pay your monthly bills because the money stops coming in. Unless you already had an economic plan in place prior to your getting injured, you're going to be in for hard times ahead. And, you're in a position of weakness with the railroad.
WHAT ARE YOU EXPECTING?
The railroad does not have to provide you with income while you are off injured. You are not covered by state Workers' Compensation laws; your injury is covered by the Federal Employers' Liability Act (FELA). Under that Act, when you are injured on the job, the railroad is held harmless. In other words, you have to prove that the railroad is at fault or it owes you nothing. Any money the railroad gives you, whether it is an advance on your claim or a setoff against your lost wages in the form of wage continuation, is totally voluntary. And in reality, it's your money that it is giving you. So, when you agree to let the railroad give you your own money, you do it at a great risk to your FELA claim.
Especially in today's economy, by applying financial pressure on you to accept advances or wage continuation, the railroad knows it can control your medical treatment and get you to provide a statement - the two most crucial elements to your economic recovery. Your statement of facts will either establish or take away liability against the railroad.
Again, if you cannot prove the railroad is at fault, no matter how serious your injury, it owes you nothing! Without fully understanding this, you may innocently answer a question that gives the railroad the upper hand it is looking for. The railroad knows you don't have to give a statement. The railroad also knows, however, if you're hurting for money (because you don't have a back up financial plan), it can pressure you into giving a statement in exchange for advances or wage continuation.
HOW TO BE PREPARED FINANCIALLY FOR THE UNEXPECTED
When you are injured on-the-job, your only focus should be your medical recovery while maintaining control of your claim. The only time the claim agent should be involved with your claim is when you want him to be - when you are healed and are ready to settle.
PLAN AHEAD BY DOING THE FOLLOWING:
- Total all your monthly bills: mortgage payment, auto loans, credit card, utilities, food / clothing, etc.;
- If you are qualified for Railroad Retirement Board sickness benefits, subtract $1260 per month from the above total; then,
- Contact your Railroad Union Rep regarding disability insurance policies and, in addition, contact your personal insurance agent to see if you can obtain enough coverage for you and your family during this unexpected, difficult time.