The on-duty / wrongful death of a railroader is sad and a tragedy. One of the saddest things to follow is a widow who has no idea of what to do next.
Her husband never told her how dangerous his job could be. Her husband never told her what to do if he were killed or seriously injured at work. She'd never heard of the FELA - Federal Employers' Liability Act or that it would be necessary to prove in a court of law that the railroad had done something wrong to cause her husband's death. She thought that some workers compensation law would automatically provide her with a check so that she and their children could go on with their lives.
She never heard that she should hire a personal injury lawyer to protect her rights and perhaps file an immediate lawsuit so that the evidence surrounding her husband's death could be preserved by court order. Oh, there were a few well meaning friends and relatives there to tell her that if she wanted to hire a lawyer, they knew a “good one.” But she never knew about FELA Designated Legal Counsel. So when FELA Designated Legal Counsel approached her and offered to help, she only saw them as vultures, pouncing on her at the most inappropriate time. She turned them away and let in the railroad. There was no independent investigation done to preserve evidence and the accident scene was cleaned. The railroad offered its sympathy with regards to her husband's tragic wrongful death which he accidentally caused himself. And when the dust settled, the railroad was gone, the family in financial ruin, left only to wonder, “How could this have happened?”
DIFFICULT SUBJECT MATTER
Could this happen to your spouse? Have you sat down and discussed with your spouse what is to be done if you are killed on the job or are seriously injured and in the hospital?
This is not a pleasant topic. Most of you want to avoid thinking about it, let alone discussing it. You have read it here before, you may have heard us discuss it at a railroad union meeting, or you may have attended one of our Family Seminars. But I'll bet that most of you haven't done it and thought, “Well, maybe tomorrow.”
You owe it to your family to inform them, today, of how dangerous your job is and what your wishes are if you are killed or so seriously injured you are unable to make decisions for yourself. I know - it's not going to happen to you – you are always careful and the most safety conscious guy out there. Forty or so of your fellow railroaders had that same thought when they went to work one day last year. But they didn't come home that day or ever again.
WHAT YOUR SPOUSE SHOULD KNOW
Start with the basics. Describe in detail how you do you job so that your spouse knows how dangerous it is and how seriously you can be injured at work. Tell your spouse about fellow employees who have been injured at work and how easily an accident can occur. You might be asking, “Why would I want to do that and have my spouse worrying all the time while I'm at work?” Discuss it because your spouse needs to understand just how serious and important this is.
Tell your spouse that if you are injured or killed at work that there are no workers' compensation payments that will sustain the family. Tell your spouse about the FELA; a negligence based law that has no automatic payments like workers' compensation. Explain that the railroad's negligence must be established and that it must have caused your injury or death. Also, explain that the railroad can use any mistake (called negligence) you may have made in causing your own work injury to reduce or eliminate any money that you may receive for the injury, or your spouse and your children may receive for your wrongful death.
Tell your spouse that as soon as there is a work injury or wrongful death on the railroad, a long list of procedures are implemented by the railroad with the sole purpose of reducing or eliminating altogether the amount of money it may have to pay out. The railroad's trained and experienced personnel set out to develop facts that will demonstrate to a jury, if necessary, that it was not negligent in causing your work injury or wrongful death, or that you were the cause (by careless or negligent behavior) of your own work injury.
Explain that if you are injured, you may receive benefits from the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB), a government agency, not an insurance company, but that they will be paid only for a time, not forever. Explain that you should have a private disability insurance policy to replace your missing income because the railroad will not pay you while you are off. Your railroad union may have an insurance program or you can purchase one of these policies from one of several companies who write disability policies. Some policies pay wrongful death benefits.
I hope that you see by this discussion that a work injury or wrongful death requires experienced FELA legal representation. The railroad is in control of the work place where the work injury or wrongful death occurred and any rolling stock or other equipment that may have been involved. An immediate inspection of the premises and/or equipment is vital to your case. For this reason it may be necessary to file a lawsuit immediately so that the court can order such an inspection. Without the court order, no attorney has a right to go on the railroad's property to conduct an investigation. Please explain to your spouse that she will have to make an immediate decision to hire legal representation and sign a contract, because without a signed contract a suit cannot be filed and without a suit an inspection cannot be held.
Tell you spouse that if you suffer a serious work injury or wrongful death at work to immediately hire a personal injury lawyer, but not just any lawyer, the experienced FELA Designated Legal Counsel of Hoey & Farina. Tell your spouse that hiring a “neighborhood lawyer” will result in a serious disadvantage as they will be unfamiliar with FELA. The railroad's lawyers have years of experience with railroad procedures and operating practices. The railroad knows how to defend these cases and has the resources to have an inexperienced lawyer chasing himself around the block. At Hoey & Farina, we have both experience working for the railroad and experience effectively representing injured railroaders and their families.
I hope you already have one of our train magnets holding up your refrigerator. Let your spouse know should a tragedy occur she should call Hoey & Farina at the toll-free number listed on the magnet. We are always available any time of the day or night to help. Hoey & Farina is also available to conduct Family Seminars where all of these matters are discussed, with other railroaders and their families, in a comfortable environment which often makes these difficult, but necessary discussions easier. If you would like to have Hoey & Farina conduct a Family Seminar in your area, contact us at 1-888-425-1212 or have one of your local railroad union officers contact us about scheduling a seminar.
PEACE OF MIND
Whether it is a one on one conversation with your spouse, or whether it's at a Family Seminar, you owe it to your family to make sure they are informed, today! Should tomorrow never come, you know today that your spouse and family will know what to do and will be o.k.