Every year, thousands of railroad employees are injured or killed on the job. When this happens, the railroads retain skilled claim agents and attorneys to protect their interests. They put their legal knowledge to work — taking photographs, obtaining statements from witnesses, collecting measurements.
These agents and attorneys work for the railroad, not for you. But as a railroad employee, if you are injured on the job, you have powerful rights under the federal law known as the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA).
In response to railroads hiring skilled claim agents and attorneys to protect their interests, SMART Transportation Division has chosen experienced and successful trial lawyers as its Designated Legal Counsel (DLC) and recommends these lawyers to its members and their families when injured or killed on the job.
These lawyers are specialists in handling FELA claims and are fully experienced in dealing with trained railroad claim agents and railroad lawyers. Members should seek their counsel and advice at the earliest opportunity if they feel they have a potential FELA case against a railroad. Always remember that the railroad claim agent is just that — an agent for the railroad. A SMART TD Designated Legal Counsel is YOUR agent, and their job is to represent the member. They are on your side.
And remember, a non-designated lawyer does not have any obligation to your union and is not answerable to SMART Transportation Division.
Our DLCs offer free consultations to SMART TD members.
DIRECTORY OF DESIGNATED LEGAL COUNSEL BY STATE
The SMART Transportation Division Designated Legal Counsel are listed by the state in which their home office is located. Although there may not be a designated legal counsel office located in each state, many of these attorneys are licensed to practice in states outside of their home state.
Jay A. Kaplan
Kaplan Law Corporation
400 Oceangate, Ste. 1125
Long Beach, CA 90802
All Designated Legal Counsel (DLC) shall agree as a condition of becoming or remaining a DLC that he or she will be subject to and fully comply with the rules of conduct. Each DLC, as a condition of becoming or remaining a DLC, shall specifically in writing waive any and all recourse to any court of law or any tribunal to challenge any action of the officers and agents of the SMART Transportation Division which in any way relates to the DLC program.
All DLC shall agree as a condition of becoming or remaining SMART TD Designated Legal Counsel that he or she will comply with and be subject to the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct as well as the state-law professional responsibility rules and canons for the jurisdictions in which they practice.
The agents of the union, its officers, staff and representatives have a duty to exercise their authority solely on behalf of and for the benefit of the SMART TD and its members. The agents of the union must set aside their personal interests and act in the best interests of the union and its members. No prospective or current DLC shall aid or abet anyone in the violation of their fiduciary duty.
Because an agent of the SMART TD must make each decision based solely on the best interests of the union, it is necessary that the agent be free of improper outside influences that would interfere with an ordinary person’s objectivity in making the decision. No prospective or current DLC shall offer or attempt to improperly influence any decision of an agent of the SMART Transportation Division.
Any DLC solicited for a payment or contribution by any SMART TD or UTUIA officer, staff member, employee or member must report the details, including the date, time and amount of such solicitation, to the International President and SMART TD Coordinator of Designated Legal Counsel immediately in writing. This is in addition to and not a substitute for any other legal or ethical requirement that may attach.
All DLCs will be permitted to become members of SMART TD, paying all dues except General Committee of Adjustment dues, and should be available and willing to attend their local’s meetings and answer questions concerning the FELA and related laws.
No DLC, under any circumstances, at any time, shall become involved in union politics. DLCs may, but are not required to, sponsor generic union social and fraternal events and regional meetings to promote unity and education among the union’s officers and members.
Any request by a SMART TD member for a political contribution for a union election from a DLC and any provision by a DLC of a political contribution for a union election of any kind including, without limitation, anything of value such as money, goods, services or entertainment to or on behalf of a candidate for union office is absolutely prohibited. Any such solicitation must be immediately reported to the SMART TD Coordinator of Designated Legal Counsel. The employment of or provision of office space to full-time SMART TD elected officers, staff or employees is prohibited.
Under no circumstances is a referral fee to be paid to any SMART TD member or union officer who recommends the DLC to an injured employee. If such a fee is requested, the International President and SMART TD Coordinator of Designated Legal Counsel shall be immediately notified.
As provided in ABA Model Rule 5.4: “A lawyer or law firm shall not share legal fees with a non-lawyer.” Each DLC and members of their firm must be willing to give advice concerning the rights and liabilities of union members for on-the-job injury under FELA and related laws. A DLC may charge a contingency fee of not more than 25% of the recovery, exclusive of costs, for cases involving a SMART TD member concerning an on-the-job injury under FELA and related laws. In the event that it is necessary to file suit regarding that matter, the DLC may charge a contingency fee of not more than 33%, exclusive of costs.
Each DLC and members of their firm must be willing to give advice concerning the rights and liabilities of union members for on-the-job injury under FELA and related laws.
Each DLC and members of their firm must be willing to handle all actionable injury cases, not only those of high potential recovery. They must also be willing to handle related matters on an injured member’s behalf at the Railroad Retirement Board and actionable claims under the Rail Safety Improvement Act.
DLCs and members of their firm must be willing to give advice concerning the rights and liabilities of union members for on-the-job injuries, either by telephone or by interview, at no cost to the union member, and should return all members’ calls related to such issues.
Any civil, criminal, administrative or bar complaint, investigation or proceeding commenced against a DLC by any union member or governmental entity shall be immediately reported to the International President and the SMART TD Coordinator of Designated Legal Counsel.
If a state bar association or other body recommends a finding that a DLC or a member of their firm violated ethical obligations, or such violations are found by any court or other adjudicatory body, the DLC shall immediately notify the International President and the General Counsel.
DLCs should immediately advise the SMART Transportation Division President prior to any significant change in the membership of their firms (e.g., merger, consolidation, departures, etc.).
The appointment and continued DLC designation is at the sole discretion of the SMART Transportation Division President.
The failure to comply with any of these rules shall be cause for sanctions up to and including immediate revocation of the DLC designation by the TD President, and in the case of SMART TD members, referral to the International President for corrective action consistent with the SMART Constitution.
SMART Transportation Division shall adopt a complaint procedure to review inquiries or complaints concerning alleged violation of the rules of conduct. Any complaint shall be forwarded in writing to the SMART TD Coordinator of Designated Legal Counsel.
What Every Railroader Should Know, written by Lawrence Mann, rail safety coordinator to SMART Transportation Division’s Designated Legal Counsel (DLC), is an extensive and comprehensive survey of federal railroad safety law as it pertains to rail workers and is essential reading for TD members concerned about how the law protects them.
Mann, who has served as rail safety coordinator for the DLC since the position was created in 2008, has been recognized by peers as the “nation’s foremost authority on railroad safety legislation and regulation.”
He has given SMART Transportation Division permission to distribute his 700-plus page book via PDF on the TD website.