“Don’t Touch that General Release!” – The Risk in Settling Too Soon

Picture this. You fell and hit your head while working for the Railroad, an incident which caused you to be off work for one week. When you are released to go back to work, a Claim Agent calls and offers you a settlement in the amount of your medical bills and lost wages. You need the money, and you need it in a hurry, so you grab the nearest ball-point pen and go to sign the settlement agreement and general release. The pen is about to touch the signature line when…


Although you want to take the money, a settlement is premature. If you are injured in an accident for which the Railroad is at fault, be sure that you do not jump at the first sight of a settlement offer. There are a variety of reasons why settling too early could actually prove to be financially harmful, as illustrated by the following scenarios.

Scenario 1: The pen is about to touch the signature line when… you scrawl your signature and accept the deal. Unfortunately, over the next several months, you develop headaches, and they get worse. You return to work, but don’t know if you can continue or if the headaches will go away… Unfortunately, the settlement agreement you signed only covered your previous medical bills, and the release means that you have voluntarily cleared the railroad of any further financial responsibility. While the original settlement was a quick fix, you made a big mistake.

Conclusion 1: Because it can often be difficult (if not impossible) to determine the extent of your injuries, you should never rush to ink a settlement agreement. If your symptoms worsen and persist (possibly even throughout the remainder of your life), you will have no recourse.

Scenario 2: The pen is about to touch the signature line when… you autograph your name and accept the deal. As it turns out, you only had a partial picture of your full medical bills when you spoke to the Claim Agent. In the coming months, you receive additional bills. You return to the Railroad to ask them to cover the rest of your bills, and they refuse. At this point, you threaten to sue them. In response, they merely chuckle and show you the general release that you signed, wherein you voluntarily released all of your future claims pertaining to this accident and freed them from all liability.

Conclusion 2: When you sign a release, you are doing just that: releasing the Railroad from any liability. As discussed in Scenario 1, a major disadvantage of settling too soon is that you may not have the fullest picture of your injuries or whether you will miss time in the future. By signing a release, you are signing away your right to sue the Railroad for anything connected to the injury, including additional injuries, costs, bills, and lost wages.

Scenario 3: The pen is about to touch the signature line when… you ink your initials and accept the deal. Later that afternoon, you overhear the Claim Agent talking to a Railroad official. “You’ll never believe it. I was authorized to offer him three times the amount of money, but the fool accepted the first offer right away! I’m going to be a hero to the Company and get a promotion.” To put it bluntly, you shortchanged yourself, and you were taken advantage of by a cunning Claim Agent.

Conclusion 3: It is best to get advice from a knowledgeable FELA attorney if you receive an offer. Your best way of making an informed decision is to get advice.

Final Scenario: The pen is about to touch the signature line when… you change your mind and decide to hire an experienced FELA attorney to help you navigate this tricky process. Your attorney helps you discover the full range of damages that you may be owed, including medical bills, pain and suffering, and lost income. You are armed with the knowledge and representation necessary to receive the compensation you deserve.

Final Conclusion: If you have sustained an injury while working for your Railroad employer, you need not navigate the claims process alone. We strongly encourage you to contact our nationally recognized Railroad Injury lawyers as soon as possible. We can help you analyze the facts of your case, provide legal advice, and handle your claim.

Article by Jerry Schlichter

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The information contained in this newsletter is provided for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Reading this newsletter and information contained herein does not constitute formation of an attorney-client relationship. Every potential case must be assessed in accordance with its unique facts and circumstances. If you believe you may have a legal claim, please request a free, confidential case evaluation with our team today.