The railroad claim agent is not your friend

Let’s take a closer look at #4 on our workplace injury checklist. Do not give a recorded statement to a railroad claim agent. Although railroad rules require an injured worker to report an injury, and to possibly participate in an investigation with a supervisor, there is no rule that requires you to provide a recorded statement to a railroad claim agent about how an injury happened. And since I’ve never seen a claim agent conclude an employee statement by declaring, “I guess we were wrong, how much do you want me to pay you…,” there is absolutely no benefit to an injured worker in participating in this process.

The claim agent wants to record your statement as soon after an accident occurs for one reason — to get ammunition to defeat any claim you might later bring against the railroad. The claim agent does not need the statement to figure out what happened. He can get all of that information from the supervisor to whom the injured worker reported the incident. He doesn’t need a statement to understand the nature and extent of the worker’s injuries. The railroad already has copies of all relevant medical records (allowing it to process payment of the bills). The claim agent has been trained to try to get the employee to admit that the incident was his or her own fault, that the railroad didn’t do anything wrong, or that the injuries really aren’t that bad.

The best protection for an injured employee is to get legal advice as soon as possible after an injury occurs. Do not make any statements to a claim agent until you discuss your incident with an attorney. If you eventually need to hire a lawyer to pursue a claim under the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA), the lawyer can talk to the claim agent directly. If the matter is not serious, and you want to settle the case on your own, at least get good advice and guidance from a railroad attorney who is familiar with the process.

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