"AN OUNCE OF PREVENTION IS WORTH A POUND OF CURE"
The old adage holds true today as ever, especially when it comes to railroaders' rights when they are injured on the job.
As a railroader, you must know what must be done to protect your rights and to prevent the railroad from keeping you and your family from a financial recovery.
In past articles, we have addressed specific ways to protect your rights under the FELA - Federal Employers’ Liability Act and to avoid mistakes which could jeopardize your financial recovery, including:
Preparing Your Family in the Event of an Injury at Work
Educating Your Own Treating Doctor of Railroaders’ Unique Rights Under FELA; and
- Documenting in Writing Any Dealings With the Railroad
The "ounce of prevention" message is an important one. In our representation of injured railroad workers, we have witnessed aggressive actions taken by railroads. Railroad officials have accompanied injured workers into the hospital emergency rooms to seek medical information from doctors and the hospital staff. Medical personnel often times wrongly presume that the employer has a right to such information.
Recently, I even saw railroad officials purposely eavesdrop on the private and personal conversation between an injured railroader’s family and his ER doctor. Regardless of the various methods used, what the railroad officials do with this information is clear: they immediately pass any information to their claim agents who may then use it against the injured employee.
DELIVERING THE MESSAGE TO THE ER STAFF
The best way you can protect your rights at the ER is to immediately explain to hospital staff that:
No railroad official has the right to any of your personal medical information;
You have the right to choose your own treating health care providers; and
- You do not authorize any consultation by the hospital staff and/or treating physicians with railroad personnel, its medical department or their representatives.
Often times, hospital staff and doctors mistakenly believe that the railroad employer has a right to know your personal and private medical information. This is NOT the case! While you may be required to be examined by a railroad doctor at some point, you have the right to be treated for your injury by your own doctor who is not being paid by the railroad and whose focus is solely on your medical recovery.
Because you may be in great pain and not in any physical condition to communicate to the hospital staff, we have put together a sample letter to ER and hospital staff that you can simply give to them to help better protect your personal and private medical information and your rights under the law. This letter should be kept in an accessible place, such as in your grip, your vehicle, or in a special place at home.
We also recommend that you compile an "Emergency Folder" that allows your spouse or other family member quick access to important information in the event of an injury at work. In this way, at a time of great anxiety and stress, you and your family will be prepared to protect your rights. The "Emergency Folder" should include:
Emergency Response Check List
Letter to ER and Hospital Staff
Letter To Doctors: Knowing Your Patient, The Railroad Employee
Durable Power of Attorney (Establishes someone to act with authority on your behalf)
Contact numbers of your union representatives
- Contact number of your FELA Designated Legal Counsel Hoey & Farina -- Toll Free: 1-888-425-1212.
These documents are available on our web site in our Forms Shanty, either separately or in one convenient document entitled, "Emergency Information Folder."
The message is clear -- only you can take that ounce of prevention before a work injury happens to protect the rights of you and your family.