I often become involved in claims for injured Railroad employees several months or even a year or more after the injury. My advice and representation is requested because of concern over the potential career limiting aspects of a serious injury. It is not unusual for me to find that the Railroad’s Vocational Rehabilitation Department has sent the new client letters requesting participation in what is called the Railroad’s “Vocational Rehabilitation Program”.
True Identity of a Vocational Rehabilitation Program
The problem lies in the fact that the “Vocational Rehabilitation Program” is really an arm of the Claims Department. The Railroad hopes that the employee, or an inexperienced Federal Employers Liability Act Attorney, will ignore the vocational rehabilitation letters. This allows the Railroad to argue at trial that the employee did not take advantage of assistance that the Railroad was prepared to offer to help the employee to obtain employment either at the Railroad or employment outside of the Railroad. This can be a powerful argument before a Jury. Often times, the most significant aspect of any serious injury claim is the lost wages and benefits that the injured employee is losing as a result of an inability to return to work on the Railroad. Accordingly, the Railroads are well versed in battling these issues on all fronts, including through their so called “Vocational Rehabilitation Program”.
Why an Experienced FELA Attorney Matters
Rather than ignore these letters, an experienced Federal Employers Liability Act Counsel will respond appropriately to the letters to shift the emphasis away from what the injured employee allegedly failed to do and highlight the fact that the Railroad, which employs thousands and thousands of employees, has not stepped up to assist the injured employee by offering suitable alternative employment within the Railroad. The last thing that an injured employee would want to have happen is to “win” the FELA case by proving that his or her injury was due to the Railroad’s failure to provide a reasonably safe place in which to work but lose the battle by receiving an inadequate damages aware because the employee ignored letters from the Railroad’s “Vocational Rehabilitation Department”.
What to Do Next?
If an employee is in a situation like the kind described above, it is important that he or she seek out an experienced FELA Counsel to assist in rebutting this tactic by the Railroads.
By Matt Darby