His Job Is To Save The Railroad Money!
There have been many times when we have heard an injured railroader say, “I am going to give the claim agent a chance to settle with me. He told me that my settlement will not be much lower if I hire a lawyer.”
When a railroad is injured, the railroad immediately begins to build its case against the railroader. While the employee is recovering from his injury the railroad, namely the claim agent, is gathering information and documentation to reduce the railroad’s liability. The railroad is taking control of the facts that will significantly impact settlement negotiations.
During the recovery period, an injured railroader has no access to the information the railroad has concerning his injury. He may be able to develop some information from his fellow employees, but he has no formal means to gather evidence or establish the theory of the railroad’s liability.
Typically, the employee and his railroad union representative are denied access to the accident scene and the equipment that may be involved. If rolling stock is involved, the railroad will continue to utilize the stock in service or allow it to be shipped to some other location. If defective equipment and structures contributed to the work injury, the railroad will make the necessary repairs prior to any subsequent inspections. Immediately, the railroad has placed the injured railroader in a weak negotiating position.
The claim agent wants you to believe that he is your friend. He will offer to pay your medical bills with your own health care insurance policy and send you to the “best company” doctors. He will tell you that he will address all the injured railroader’s needs in the hopes that the employee will not retain designated legal counsel - a personal injury lawyer who knows the Federal Employers' Liability Act ("FELA") and your FELA rights.
The claim agent’s objective is to become the “friend” of the injured railroader and to lead the claimant towards a direct settlement, favorable to the railroad.
The injured railroader should know that the railroad’s claim department is structured so that an injured railroader must rely on the claim agent as his representative in direct settlement negotiations. The claim agent must first convince his superiors of the value of a case. He is required to evaluate the railroad's financial risk. The injured employee is relying on the local claim agent to negotiate his case within the claim department.
So after the employee convinces the claim agent of the value of the work injury, the employee then relies on the claim agent to convince his superiors of the validity of the claim. How can this procedure be in the best interest of the injured employee when the claim agent’s loyalty is with railroad management and his next raise is dependent upon their approval?
In summary, the claim agent is representing the railroad. The claim objectives are to manage your medical treatment, control settlement negotiations and pay you the lowest amount of money possible to avoid a FELA lawsuit against the railroad. He wants to control the value of your case and then convince the injured employee to accept the least amount.
Hoey & Farina’ sole responsibility is to represent your, our client’s, best interest. The facts and circumstances of each case will affect the settlement outcome or a jury’s verdict.
But the “best interests” of the railroad will never be a consideration in representing the injured railroader.