As soon as possible after suffering an injury at work, a railroad employee should fill out an accident report. Most railroads have formal rules requiring that the accident report be filled out promptly after any injury. Failure to complete the report opens the door for the railroad to deny that the injury occurred at work, to claim that the injury was so minor that the employee did not even bother to fill out the report, or to subject the employee to discipline for violation of the above-mentioned rule.
Merely filling out the report is not enough, however. The employee must also be careful about what information is provided in the report. It is best to make sure that a union representative is present at the time a report is completed, and if possible, call a railroad law attorney for advice before completing the report. The injured employee should identify in the report all conditions in the workplace that contributed to the injury, including defective equipment, oversized ballast, lack of assistance, improper instruction, etc. If the cause of an accident is not immediately apparent, do not concede that the railroad did nothing wrong. Later investigation often reveals the cause of an accident that the employee was not aware of at the time. Instead, simply write on the report that, “I do not know at this time what caused the accident.” The information included in an incident report can be crucial to eventually proving the railroad’s negligence under the FELA.
Remember, you have specific legal protections against retaliation for truthfully reporting workplace injuries. Filling out the railroad’s incident report is the best way to protect yourself.