Railroad Vocational Rehabilitation
Following an injury which prevents a railroad employee from returning to work in their former craft where they have accumulated years of seniority, there are many issues the employee is faced with regarding the future and vocational options. Does the injury render the employee totally disabled from all work or just from returning to his/her former craft with the railroad? The answer to this question directly impacts the potential economic damages in a FELA case and the railroad is well aware of this fact.
To address this issue, and with the goal of minimizing the employee’s economic damage argument to a jury, the railroad may begin an aggressive letter-writing campaign offering vocational training, alternative employment positions within the railroad in other cities, offering front-line supervisor positions with no job seniority protection, and offers to pay for schooling or job retraining. The railroad will make these offers to employees who have potential FELA claims and hope that these letters are ignored. At trial, this tactic positions the railroad to argue that the employee refused all of the help offered by the railroad and thereby, the employee has failed to take steps to reduce his/her economic damages.
Some railroads will offer injured employees voluntary “light duty” or “restricted duty” work intended to get the employee back to work quickly and ease immediate financial concerns the employee may have. Depending on the nature of the injury and the individual circumstances of the employee, accepting the railroad’s “light duty” program may be in the best interest of the employee. However, it is important to know that there are usually strings attached to any such offer, including signing a medical records release authorization and giving a recorded statement to the claims agent.