Is A Written Accident Report Required Of Railroad Workers In FELA Claims? | Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp

Railroad workers face potentially dangerous conditions every day as a part of their jobs. When injuries happen, railroad workers are not eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. Instead, claims for reimbursement of lost wages, medical expenses, and other costs associated with their injuries are made through the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA). As a federal statute, it sets forth requirements about worker claims against railroads and how they are handled. One of the things that is not required in this type of claim is a written accident report from the railroad worker. 


As experienced railroad worker injury attorneys with over 20 years of experience, Shapiro & Appleton provides the trusted legal guidance and professional representation you need when filing a FELA claim. While not having a written accident report does not prevent you from seeking compensation for railroad injuries, it does help your case. The following provides important information about these reports, some of the common reasons they are not filed, and how it could potentially impact your rights to benefits. 

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The Purpose Of A Written Railroad Accident Injury Report


According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), more than 4,000 workers suffer railroad accidents and injuries each year. These can leave them unable to work or provide for their families while facing a mountain of medical expenses. They can also result in disabilities that impact their health and financial security for years into the future.  


Benefits you may be entitled to through the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) can help offset these expenses. However, unlike regular workers’ compensation benefits, FELA is a fault based system. In order to collect compensation for your losses, you must prove two important facts: 


  1. That your injuries occurred on the job or in the course of your work duties;
  2. That the railroad’s negligence in some way either caused or contributed to your injuries. 


Under FELA, railroads have a broad duty to ensure a safe workplace. If you can show the railroad’s actions or inaction were in any way responsible or contributed to your injuries, you may be entitled to file a claim. This is where a written accident report can prove valuable. It should contain details about your accident, when and where it occurred, the extent of the injuries suffered, and contributing factors that show the railroad is at least partly to blame.  


Why A Written Report May Not Be Filed 


It is not uncommon for railroad workers to not file a claim in the aftermath of accidents and injuries. In some cases, they may downplay the incident or the extent of their injuries. In others, they may face pressure to not file a written accident report or fear recriminations from their employers if they do. 


As a railroad employee, you have the right to report dangerous conditions on the job and to file written accident reports when work related accidents and injuries occur. Protections for railroad workers against retaliatory actions are provided under Section 20109 of the Federal Railroad Safety Act (FRSA). This protects railroad workers and prevents their employers from threatening their job, hours, or benefits as a result of the following:  


  • For reporting unsafe conditions on job sites;
  • For promptly reporting injuries to supervisors;
  • For filing written accident reports when injuries occur;
  • For seeking proper medical care and treatment. 


If the railroad does attempt to harass and intimidate you for reporting injuries or in any way threatens your job, they can be held liable for damages. These include job reinstatement, back pay, and compensation for legal costs or other expenses you incur. 


Proceeding With A FELA Claim Without A Written Accident Report 


Whenever railroad accidents and injuries occur, workers should report the incident to their supervisor and seek medical attention immediately. Many potentially serious conditions have symptoms which take days or even weeks to appear. Even otherwise minor injuries can end up having a major impact on your health. 


Filing a written accident report is the best course of action. However, if you did not do so there are still ways in which you can protect yourself: 


  • Jot down as many details about the accident as you can and the circumstances surrounding it. This includes the geographic location and the exact time the incident occurred. 
  • Make note of the specific injuries suffered and the body parts affected. Make sure to report all symptoms to your doctor and follow their instructions concerning follow up care and work or activity restrictions. 
  • Record details regarding the ways in which the railroad may have been at fault. Remember, even if you were partly responsible, you may still be entitled to compensation through a FELA claim. 


In an article for the Legal Examiner, we discussed Railroad Defense Bullies and the tactics they often employ. Railroads generally have teams of attorneys on their side, looking out for the company’s best interests. They may deny you access to records or cite the lack of a written accident report as a reason to deny your FELA claim. This is nothing more than a myth. 


There have been a number of cases over the past decades where courts have confirmed that a written accident report is not required to win under the FELA. However, it is important to recognize that maintaining your own records and keeping accurate, detailed information about the incident is to your advantage.  


Get Our Railroad Worker Injury/FELA Attorneys On Your Side

Railroads have teams of attorneys on their side, defending them in railroad worker injury claims. Get our experienced legal team at Shapiro & Appleton on yours, fighting to protect your rights. To request a consultation, call or contact our railroad worker injury/FELA attorneys online today.