Hildebrand, McLeod & Nelson, Inc. is among the most respected and able partnerships in the Western United States dedicated to the representation of plaintiffs in personal injury cases. We are trial lawyers.

Not everyone who gets sick or injured, or those whose loved ones die following injury or sickness, have a legal right to recover damages.

Many, however, fall sick or incur injury at the hands of another. Both state and federal law provide victims of the negligent acts of others a means of recovery. Lawyers who specialize in helping the sick and injured are called personal injury lawyers. The best personal injury lawyers are those who have the ability to marshal all the facts available and present them in a clear and concise manner to secure appropriate settlement or verdict. The best results are earned by those lawyers who can, and will, take a case to trial when a settlement offer is not reasonable

     FELA..........WHAT IS IT AND WHAT YOU SHOULD DO INCASE YOU ARE                                                                 INJURED




The Federal Employers Liability Act was passed by Congress in 1908 for the purpose of providing compensation and protective rights to railroad employees who are injured on the job. It enables injured employees to bring claims directly against the railroad for damages when it can be shown that the railroad negligently caused the injury or violated a safety statute.

Negligence is defined as the railroad’s failure to do something it should have done, or the railroad's performance of an act it should not have done. Negligence can be established in a variety of ways. These include: failure to provide a safe place to work, failure to provide reasonably suitable and proper tools and equipment for the performance of work, failure to schedule and perform regular inspections and maintenance, failure to service switches, failure to maintain reasonably regular walkways where switching is performed, or the failure to train and assign adequate help for the performance of work.

In addition to these "negligence" theories against a railroad, railroads are liable under the FELA if they violate one of the numerous safety statutes which have been passed for the benefit and safety of railroad workers. These include: the Federal Safety Appliance Act (hand holds, grab irons, ladders, couplers, handbrakes, airbrakes, etc.); the Locomotive Inspection Act (parts and appurtenances of a locomotive); and the Federal Railway Safety Act (utility employees, blue flag protection, etc.), and individual state walkway standards.

The courts have held that the employer's negligence does not have to be the sole cause of the accident. So long as the carrier was at fault in the slightest degree it is negligent enough for the injured worker to establish the right to recover.

As distinguished from state workman's compensation laws, there is no schedule of benefits, whether weekly or otherwise, to which an employee is entitled. Instead there are elements that determine damages. They include past and future lost wages, past and future pain and suffering, the effects of the injury on quality of life, out of pocket expenses - including medical costs, the reasonable value of lost household services, and vocational training costs.

Because the FELA involves bringing a claim directly against the employer, the railroads make every effort to keep the amount they pay out as low as possible. It is crucial that injured railroad employees contact designated legal counsel.

Here are a few of Hildebrand McLeod & Nelsons "SEASONED" investegators:                                                        

Toll-free: (800) 447-7500 Fax: (510) 465-7023

Hildebrand, McLeod & Nelson, better known as the "Hildebrand Firm" had its start in 1926 when Cliff Hildebrand (1899-1977) decided to reject the safety and financial rewards of corporate law and become a standard bearer and advocate for the working man. It all came about when Cliff was fishing the Sacramento River outside of Dunsmuir, California and befriended a brakeman and fellow fisherman who worked for the Southern Pacific Railroad. Upon finding out that Cliff was a lawyer he proceeded to inform him that a number of his co-workers had suffered serious injury while at work for the railroad and that they were unable to find an attorney to represent them as it appeared they were all fearful of the railroad's power and influence. This intrigued Cliff, and he soon filed a half-dozen lawsuits against the railroad under the Federal Employers' Liability Act, a law enacted in 1908 as "a response to the special needs of railroad workers who are daily exposed to the risks inherent in railroad work and are helpless to provide adequately for their own safety." Sinkler vs. Missouri Pacific Railroad Co. (1957) 356 U.S. 326; 2 L.Ed.2d 799 at 802. Unlike workers in other U.S. industries, railroad workers did not have worker's compensation protection. Their only remedy was (and is) to bring suit under F.E.L.A.

Shortly after filing those cases, the Chief Claim Agent for the Southern Pacific Railroad contacted Cliff and indicated, in so many words, that the Southern Pacific did not settle cases with lawyers, that they go to trial and win every time, and further more that if he, Clifton Hildebrand, did not drop the cases that were filed, he would have him disbarred in six months time. Cliff responded by telling him that up until that time, he had not made up his mind as to what kind of law he wanted to practice, but he said, "Now I know. I'm going to specialize in suing the railroads, and particularly the Southern Pacific for injured railroad men who are hurt on the job."

From that threat, the journey began. During the ensuing years, Hildebrand, through settlements and trials won millions of dollars for railroaders hurt on the job as well as for the other injury victims involved in car crashes and construction accidents. He was the pioneer in F.E.L.A. litigation west of the Rocky Mountains and his appellate decisions helped shape the liberal application of F.E.L.A. from coast to coast.

Being a successful pioneer had its costs. True to their word, the Southern Pacific attempted to bring disbarment proceedings against Cliff in 1928. Investigators hired by the railroad persuaded two former clients to give statements indicating that their cases had been solicited. A state bar hearing was held and the charges were found to be bogus.

In 1930, Cliff was named as one of the original designated counsel for the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen.

In 1935, Hildebrand hired a young lawyer, Charles McLeod (1910-1991), to assist him with his burgeoning caseload. This association and later partnership was to last through both their lifetimes.

In 1939, through the instigation of the Western Pacific Railroad and the Southern Pacific, charges were again brought against Hildebrand for soliciting cases or what was popularly called "ambulance chasing". This was a long and costly case that ended up in the California Supreme Court. When the smoke cleared, the court found that the Western Pacific claims agents had gone directly to the widow of a trainman who had been killed at work after they knew she was represented by Hildebrand. They settled with her directly then prepared a statement for her to sign stating that Cliff had solicited her case. Her later testimony indicated that not only was Cliff recommended by a close friend, but that her late husband had known Cliff and had instructed her to secure his services in the event of an accident to him. The Court threw out the charges.

The team of Hildebrand and McLeod became so successful at winning just compensation for their clients that they became, in Cliff's words: "Public Enemy Number One" as far as west coast railroads were concerned. In 1948, they were attacked again. This time it was a consortium of the A.A.R. (Association of American Railroads), the Santa Fe and the Southern Pacific. Again numerous unsubstantiated charges of solicitation were brought along with the charge that cases were being "channeled" to the Hildebrand firm by the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen in violation of the Bar Associations rules of ethics.

This time the Bar Association, acting under a tremendous amount of political pressure put on it by the railroads, ordered that Cliff be suspended for four years from the practice of law. The Appellate Court reduced it to four months, and the Supreme Court of California determined that no discipline was warranted. But after grappling with the issue of "channeling", the court decided that it was against the Bar's rules for the Brotherhood to recommend and designate certain lawyers for their membership. Justice Traynor wrote a stinging dissent wherein he criticized the railroad claims practices and attorneys who were not competent to handle F.E.L.A. cases. Justice Carter concurred and added that it was one of the union's functions to select a competent attorney to assist an injured workman.

Thus, the Hildebrand firm resumed business when the Supreme Court decision came down at the end of 1950. While waiting for the courts to determine the matter, Cliff shifted his pending cases to his old friend George Bodel in Los Angeles and introduced him to the working of the F.E.L.A. The Bodel & Fogel firm existed for many years as the firm of Fogel, Feldman, Ostrow Ringler & Klevens. In the next 20 years the Hildebrand firm spawned many current attorneys working in the field, Dick Crow ran Hildebrand's office in Los Angeles and later became the Crow Firm. Cliff associated Carleton Reiter and Monte Bricker whose firm was know as Bricker, Zakovics, Querin, Thompson and Ritchy, and John Rossi in Denver where his practice is known as Rossi, Cox, and Vucinovich.

The railroads were not finished trying to derail Hildebrand. In 1963, they filed for an injunction in the Los Angeles Superior Court seeking to enjoin the Hildebrand firm from practicing law. Their plan was to keep the firm so busy defending their right to practice law that they would have neither the money nor time to represent injured railroad workers. While this state action was pending, the United States Supreme Court, in the matter of the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen v. the State of Virginia, issued an opinion holding that the union had every right to refer its injured members to a lawyer or firm "with a reputation for honesty and skill in representing plaintiffs in railroad personal injury litigation." The court stated that "injured workers or their families often fall prey on the one hand to persuasive claims adjusters eager to gain a quick and cheap settlement for their railroad employers, or on the other to lawyers either not competent to try these lawsuits against the able and experienced railroad counsel, or too willing to settle a case for a quick dollar."

The United States Supreme Court holding became the law of the land and the state action against Hildebrand was quickly dismissed.

In 1964 Cliff stole Frederick Nelson away from the Southern Pacific Law Department and thus gained a brilliant and persuasive trial attorney. In two years he was made a partner and the firm's name became Hildebrand, McLeod & Nelson, a name which is retained to date. In 1967, David Draheim was plucked away from the District Attorney's office expanding the trial staff to four lawyers. The firm continued to aggressively represent injured railroad workers and their families in all of the railroad crafts.

Following the retirement of Clifton Hildebrand and Charles McLeod in the late 1970s, Anthony Petru was hired fresh out of Law School in 1980. The firm continues today with the three partners, Mr. Nelson, Mr. Draheim, and Mr. Petru, all specializing in the areas of practice pioneered so many decades ago by Cliff Hildebrand