"You don't need to talk to an attorney. Give me a chance to take care of you."
If you have been injured on the railroad you probably have heard those words. They are powerful words from the claim agent. Let's face it - any one who is injured on the job wants to be "taken care of" by the company he works for.
I grew up in Chicago and watched gangster movies about Al Capone and Dillinger. When somebody said that he was going to ‘take care of you' it wasn't a good thing. Being "taken care of" by the railroads may not be in your best interest, either.
Before you decide to let the railroad's claim agent "take care of you" you need to understand the FELA - Federal Employers' Liability Act and the role the claim agent plays.
Under the FELA, the railroad is not responsible for your injury unless you can prove that:
- it negligently did or failed to do something that caused your work injury;
- it knew or should have known about the condition that caused your work injury; and,
- your damages were the result of the railroad's negligence.
Just because the claim agent offers to take care of you doesn't mean the railroad has admitted liability and owes you something under the FELA. It doesn't mean the railroad will waive a formal investigation or not put you under video surveillance. It doesn't mean anything under the law.
All it means is that a claim agent hopes that you will trust him and he will gain your confidence. Once the claim agent has that, he can then really start to do his job. And, you must understand his job. His title is Railroad Claim Agent - not Injured Employee's Claim Agent. The sole purpose of a claim agent is to manage your claim in order to reduce the amount of money the railroad might pay you. Once the claim agent has your trust, he can then obtain your statement without the benefit of counsel or with the understanding of the legal impact of each word you say. He will try to make you financially dependent on him and direct your medical treatment.
Claim agents know how to be friendly and are well trained railroad employees who are very good at what they do. But make no mistake about it, claim agents work for the railroad, not for you, the injured railroad employee. The claim agent's job is to save the railroad money by paying you less than your claim is worth, and in a best case scenario, pay you nothing.
Think about it. Have you ever heard the biblical saying, "You can't serve two masters?" How could a claim agent "take care of you" and his employer at the same time? Do you think during the claim agent's yearly job review it's going to be to his advantage if he paid you what your claim is worth? His job is to save the railroad money!
Keep in mind, too, that the claim agent's authority does not come from the railroad's labor relations department or human resources. The claim agent's running orders come from the railroad's legal department. This is the same legal department that handles defending the railroad against your claim. It's kind of like letting the fox take care of the chickens. Now some people might think, "What's the harm?" After all, "I have three years to hire an attorney." Well if was just the three year statute involved, giving the claim agent a chance might not be a bad idea. But the truth is that there might be other statutes and notices involved that may be less than three years. If you do not adhere to all applicable statutes and notices, your case might be substantially harmed or made worthless. Furthermore, claim agents look at the statute of limitations differently than the injured workers. Claim agents know that every day that they can keep you from obtaining a personal injury attorney is another day the evidence trail gets colder and their case gets better. Witnesses' memories will fade, conditions that caused your injury will change and evidence can get lost. Remember, under the law the burden of proof is on you. The railroad only has to defend.
Instead of going it alone, let the FELA legal team of Hoey & Farina act as your "claim agent." Our job, unlike the railroad's claim agent, is to maximize the value of your claim, not diminish it. A railroad accident attorney at Hoey & Farina is available any time of the day, any day of the week at 1-888-425-1212 to discuss your injury. We are available to explain how the facts surrounding your case may help or hurt your claim under the FELA and to offer you free legal advice.