The following is the actual events that occurred to one railroader when he didn't file a personal injury report after getting hurt on the job because of the fear of retribution from his supervisors -- Eds.
"For five years, I was a railroad worker. I worked as a switchman in a rail yard. One night I was making up a train when I discovered a misaligned drawbar due to a failed coupling. I attempted to realign the drawbar and injured my back. As I attempted to move the drawbar back to center, I felt a pop in my back. When I got back to the engine, I told my engineer about hurting my back. He asked me if I was going to file an injury report and I said no, I want to wait and see how it feels, to see if the pain would go away. I did not file the report. I knew if I filed a report, there would be retribution against me by my trainmaster and terminal superintendent. I saw other employees who reported injuries and incurred the wrath of the railroad. I wanted to avoid that at all costs.
I worked the next few days and my back got worse; the pain went down my leg and my leg eventually was numb. My wife insisted I see a doctor and I went to see a chiropractor I saw years before. He wanted me to stay off work at least two weeks.
I went to see my trainmaster. I told him my back hurt and I wanted two weeks vacation. He did not ask me and I did not tell him I hurt my back aligning a drawbar. After two weeks, my back and leg were worse. I went back to my trainmaster and asked for two more weeks off. He did not ask and I did not tell him I hurt my back realigning a drawbar. He gave me two more weeks off on medical leave. I saw a neurosurgeon. He sent me for an MRI. After the MRI the neurosurgeon said I needed extensive spinal surgery immediately or I could be paralyzed. We set the surgery for three days later. I went back to my trainmaster and told him I wanted to report the accident. He called the superintendent and assistant superintendent into his office. They questioned me for three hours off and on with one or more of them leaving and re-entering the office. Finally, they let me fill out an accident report. By that time I was in excruciating pain. They never offered me any medical attention.
While I was in the hospital after the surgery, the railroad served a notice of investigation to my house. My wife brought it to me in the hospital. Eventually the railroad held a hearing. I was charged with filing a false accident report, and/or a late report. The railroad terminated my employment. My union appealed my case all the way to a Public Law Board, which upheld my termination for filing a late report.
I hired Hoey & Farina to represent me for my injuries. I knew my late report would hurt my case. After depositions and experts, the case was set for trial. One week before trial, we met with my lawyer, the railroad lawyer and the federal judge who was to preside over my jury trial to try to reach a settlement. The judge told me and the railroad lawyer agreed that my case would be worth substantially more money if I had made a timely report of my injury. The railroad did not want to pay me anything. After several hours of negotiation, we reached a settlement. I received a substantial settlement, but not nearly what I would have received had I reported my accident timely.
I am grateful that Hoey & Farina litigated my case aggressively. I believe their aggressive litigation of my case made the railroad pay me more money than it wanted. The amount of my settlement is confidential.
After my surgery, I went back to school and earned my degree. I am working normal hours without heavy work, but I still do not earn what I did at the railroad. I hope eventually I will catch up.
My lawyer asked me to write this because he sees more and more cases like mine where serious injuries and accidents are not reported to the railroad and the injured employee does not receive as much money as if he did report the accident. I made a decision not to report my accident. It was the wrong decision.
I lost my job with the railroad and I hurt my case for compensation for my injuries. I could have gone to jury trial but I agreed the railroad was offering a large sum that I could not risk the jury finding for the railroad and getting nothing. I would not have had that risk if I had made a timely report of my accident.
The point of writing this article is to warn railroad employees to always report an injury, especially back injuries. I made a bad decision not to report my injury. Don't make the same mistake."