It is crucial for railroad employees to immediately report their injuries at work. A recent case illustrates why this is so important. I represent an individual who injured his lower back when his co-worker unexpectedly dropped a heavy load they were both carrying. The co-worker apologized, and the employee told his immediate supervisor what happened. Instead of filling out an incident report, however, the injured employee was persuaded by the supervisor to “take it easy” for the rest of the shift and see how he feels. For the next several days, the employee reported to work, told his supervisor he still felt pain in his lower back, and was told he could sit in the supervisor’s truck and rest until the end of the shift. “Let’s see how you’re doing tomorrow,” he was told. After about a week, the employee felt pressure from his co-workers to return to the job. He felt guilty sitting in the truck all day while the rest of the crew was working. So the injured employee tried to perform his regular job duties, and not suprisingly the pain in his lower back got worse. He told his supervisor he needed medical attention and was finally given an incident report to fill out. The employee was diagnosed with multiple disc herniations and was out of work for over two years.
The employee pursued a claim under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA) for damages resulting from the incident. In its defense of the case, the railroad argued that the accident that caused the employee’s injury never happened. The first time I learned of an injury, the supervisor claimed, was the day he filled out an incident report (two weeks after the original incident). The co-worker, in an apparent attempt to shield himself from responsibility and avoid possible discipline, denied that he ever dropped a heavy load that he was carrying with my client. My client was being protrayed as a liar, as someone who was trying to take advantage of the railroad and get money for an injury that must not have occured at work.
After my client suffered his injury, he could have protected himself by immediately seeking medical attention and filling out an incident report. Instead, he was convinced that he should be a “team player” and try to help the railroad avoid the requirements of reporting an at-work injury to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). As he found out, when it is discovered that the injury is serious, the railroad is not interested in returning the favor.
If you get hurt at work, take whatever steps you can to make sure that you will be protected. This includes seeking medical attention, promptly filling out the incident report, and getting advice from an attorney familiar with the railroad industry.