(Douglasville, Georgia – May 26, 2011)
In January, the efforts by Norfolk Southern Railroad to repair their tracks after a derailment caused multiple problems for a single mother of two college students.
Nicole Hill’s car received massive damage to her radiator when she drove over the tracks being repaired at Mozley Road and Broad Street in Douglasville, GA. According to Hill, there were no warning signs warning of elevation of the tracks during repairs. “I stopped, made a right to cross the tracks, and heard a thud,” she told CBS Atlanta News.
After the incident, Hill noticed some leakage from her radiator, but because the car was her sole transportation to work, she continued to drive it. A week later, she was able to get a mechanic to look at the damage, only to find that the leaking, non-functioning radiator had caused irreparable damage to the car’s engine.
She contacted Norfolk Southern’s General Claims Dept., and was told they would only pay for her radiator and not for the engine damage resultant from the initial accident. Hill received a $1,000 check from NS for a total bill of more than $3,000, and noted that the back of the check read “endorsement of this check constitutes a full, final and complete release of all complaints coming out of an accident occurring at Mozley Road.”
Now, Hill could neither afford the car repairs nor get to work. “I am not going to endorse it. I refuse to settle,” Hill told an action reporter at the news station. “It is not fair, as that is my only vehicle and it was their (NS) fault.” As of Thursday afternoon, Norfolk Southern had failed to respond to phone calls and e-mails sent by the TV station on Ms. Hill’s behalf.
NOTE: Regardless of the amount of the claim or the inconvenience or heartache caused by a railroad’s failure to be responsible, the victim can usually expect a “low-ball” offer from the General Claims (a part of the railroad’s Law Dept.) representative to settle any claim against them. Seldom is there compassion, but rather, a sense of urgency by the railroad to settle before the victim seeks legal counsel.
The idea is to offer “something” (a bird-in-the-hand concept) immediately, hoping the victim (or the victim’s family in the case of accidental death, where the usual offer is “burial expenses”) is so desperately in need that he or she will accept it and the railroad has settled for “nuisance value” and the case is closed. Once the victim or the victim’s relatives have signed off on the railroad’s offer, further relief is extremely difficult to obtain. Our advice is to investigate your rights before you sign anything with anyone, and seek a no-obligation consultation with an attorney that is familiar with railroad’s unfair dealings and tactics.