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Shapiro, Lewis, Appleton & Favaloro
Shapiro, Lewis, Appleton & Favaloro
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Railroad Defense Bullies

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It never ceases to amaze me how attorneys representing big corporations like CSX Railroad will try to bully and threaten the injured worker and his attorney only to give in in the end when faced with clear law in favor of the little guy.

One example of this bluster by railroad defense attorneys has to do with getting a copy of the accident report in an injured railroad worker’s case. Over the years, our firm has developed a standard form we send to the railroad putting them on notice of the injured worker’s traumatic injury. The standard letter says please send us a copy of the accident report form, which the railroad is required to fill out when a worker reports an injury on the job. Rarely do they just send the form like they are required to. Instead, we get a long nasty letter from CSX’s attorneys saying they will never voluntarily give us any information. Amazingly, they go on to claim that they are not required to give us any forms or information about our client’s injury.

The practice by the big defense firms is unethical. I do not understand why they persist in sending this letter. I guess some inexperienced lawyers who do not regularly handle F.E.L.A. cases knuckle under and simply take no for an answer. I have developed a standard letter that goes back to the railroad lawyer citing the specific section of the Code of Federal Regulations put out by the Federal Railroad Administration requiring them to give us a copy of the accident report. In the letter I tell them if they do not give it to me within two weeks, I will report them to the FRA. Inevitably, I get a nice call from some junior lawyer in the defense firm saying that they will send us the document. Sometimes they claim that they did not really understand what I was talking about. However, I believe that they know quite well that their bullying tactics are in direct opposition to the legal requirements.

The legal system should be about seeking truth and justice. It can be handled in a civil, cooperative way. However, the hardball tactics played by CSX Railroad and their attorneys forces us to play hardball back. At the end of the day, I do not really mind, because I know I am in the right. However, this back and forth letter writing is a waste of my time. I guess the defense lawyers like it because they get to bill CSX additional money for all the silliness.

The most important thing is that there is in fact a body of law and a set of regulations protecting injured railroad workers. These laws have been on the books since the early 1900’s because of the dangerousness of the railroad workplace. Thankfully, the current anti-worker climate in Washington has not yet led to the stripping away of all of these rights.