Who is the claims agent? The claims agent is an employee of the same railroad you work for. His job involves sitting in an office, waiting to hear about an injury, and then trying, with all his might, to protect the interest of the railroad. You may be asking, why isn’t he there to protect my interest? The best answer is that he is being paid by the railroad just as you are. He is being paid to protect their interest and try and reduce or deny your recovery. The railroad claims agent is not your friend.
How does the claims agent conduct the investigation? The first thing the claims agent will do after you are injured is meet with you. In all likelihood he will appear very sympathetic. In all likelihood he’s going to want to know how you are doing; What can he do? What can the railroad do? Do you need medical attention? He will act and appear as though he is your best friend. Do not believe it. He is not working for you, he is working for the railroad. The main aspect of his investigation is to find out what happened and who was at fault. How does he do this? The most important weapon the claims agent has is the statement that you give him immediately after the incident takes place. He will want to take a statement from you. He will either have you write it in your own handwriting or he may even ask you to give a tape recorded statement, or both. The usual process is that the first part of the investigation is to have you provide your own statement as to what happened and he will ask you to sign it. This is the most important document that you could ever provide or prepare in the course of your FELA claim. Why is it so important? Because this statement provides the roadmap for your entire case. In it you are stating what happened. In it you are stating how things happened, why things happened, and who may be responsible for what happened. This is a document that is prepared very soon after the accident and in all likelihood provides the best window as to what took place. The claims agent is going to want you to write a statement. He may want you to say things in there that may implicate you. He may want you to put things in there that he thinks may be harmful to your case, and at a point in time, when you don’t think it is. Do not let a claims agent influence you in any way when you write out your own statement. Understand that this statement will be with your case for the entire length of time that your case is in existence. Remember also, that you have to prove negligence on the part of the railroad, that is that the railroad failed to provide you with a safe place to work and that this failure was directly the result of someone or something under the influence of the railroad causing a chain of events to happen that lead to your injury. Under no circumstances should you implicate yourself as the cause of this accident. That will come back to haunt you later. If the claims agent asks what happened, state what happened, but do not say in any way that this incident was in any way your fault. If you cant point the finger at something or someone else, that may be vital. You may want to keep the statement as short as possible and just say what happened without implicating anything or anyone else. That is usually the best way. But to repeat, under no circumstances should you be pointing the finger at yourself, regardless of what the claims agent wants you or asks you to do. If, at the time, your being asked to give a signed statement, you don’t feel well, don’t give the statement. You have the right not to give the statement under those circumstances. Once you do give a statement, make sure your mind and/or head are clear. It is vital.
If at some point in time, you are being asked to give a tape recorded statement, it usually will be in the course of a question and answer session with a claims agent. Once again, keep in mind everything that you have just read. Do not implicate yourself. If you are asked what happened, give your best response as to what you think took place. If you are unsure, say so. But remember, this statement is not being given to help you in any way. At best, it may help you, at worst, you may be flushing your case down the toilet.
Remember, the claims agent is not your friend. He does not have your best interest at heart. He is working for the railroad to try and minimize the liability of the railroad.