Norfolk, VA Personal Injury Attorney Reports: Fraudulent Disability Claims Make Life Hard for All Rail Employees

As Virginia Beach, VA-based FELA attorneys, my law firm colleagues have decades of experience fighting for, and securing, compensation for railroad employees injured, sickened and killed by the work they did on trains, along tracks and in rail yards. We work closely with clients and their doctors to determine the cause and extent of their injuries or diseases, and we only move forward with a case against a defendant rail corporation if we are sure that compensation is deserved and will not be forthcoming without a lawsuit.

We trust our clients, who trust their health care providers. But we are also ethical, experienced and worldly-wise enough to know that we must verify all potential disability and wrongful death claims involving railroaders.

This is why I was deeply disappointed, but not shocked, to read that the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York on October 27, 2001, filed dozens of federal felony charges against seven former Long Island Railroad employees and two doctors for allegedly participating in a years-long scheme to concoct false diagnoses of disabling work-related injuries and illnesses so the LIRR employees could take early retirement and receive lifetimes of disability payments. Federal prosecutors in Manhattan estimate that the fraud has already cost the Railroad Retirement Board fund $300 million and could have resulted in more than $1 billion in unearned payments if left undetected.

My colleagues and I usually represent Amtrak, CSX and Norfolk Southern workers who have legitimate claims under the Federal Employers' Liability Act, the Locomotive Safety Inspection Act and the Safety Appliance Act. We also consult on RRB cases. Because of this, we know that charges like the ones leveled against the LIRR retirees will make our jobs -- and our clients' cases -- more difficult. As U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said when announcing he had filed the charges, "In these tough economic times -- with stretched budgets, rising costs, frozen wages, and unemployed people -- it is especially disheartening to think that railroad employees would tell a train of lies to pad their early retirements, and that a handful of doctors would traffic on the credibility of their profession to promote a culture of fraud."

As the LIRR fraud case plays out and for years afterward, lawyers defending railroads and members of the public will have grounds for being at least a little suspicious of any person who brings a disability claim against a former rail employer. When a railroader attempts to defraud a retirement system or company, that person commits more than a crime. He or she makes it more difficult for all individuals to receive deserved compensation for on-the-job injuries, illnesses and deaths.

Richard N. Shapiro
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Personal Injury & Wrongful Death Lawyer Serving Va Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake & all of Virginia
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