Amtrak Lawsuits Capped at $200 Million

Amtrak Lawsuits Capped at $200 Million

Posted By Golomb & Honik, P.C. || 3-Aug-2015

Following the recent Amtrak train accident, which killed eight and injured more than 200, Congress announced the payout for lawsuits related to the crash would be capped at $200 million. Many feel this number may simply be too low to fully cover the deaths and injuries associated with the derailed train, particularly when the crash was repeatedly characterized as “a scene of indescribable horror.” A group of lawsuits was filed against Amtrak in a Pennsylvania federal court just yesterday. Lawyers for the plaintiffs point to speed as the primary factor in the Amtrak train’s derailment, dismissing the alternative theory that a projectile struck the train and led to the accident. In fact the train was traveling at nearly twice the legal speed limit.

Human Error or Negligence on the Part of Amtrak?

The engineer, Brandon Bostian, has repeatedly maintained he remembers nothing about the accident, but has provided a blood sample to officials. Bostian suffered a concussion as well as injuries to both legs in the derailment. Plaintiff’s lawyers have also noted Amtrak’s failure to install safety controls which regulate the speed of the trains—a deadly choice, as it turns out. One of the current plaintiff’s had her arm nearly severed in the accident, another suffered serious back injuries and numerous cuts, while yet another sustained multiple broken ribs and had teeth knocked out.

Wrongful Death Suits Expected

The families of those who died on Amtrak 188 have not yet filed wrongful death cases, but it is expected they will do so in the coming weeks. An Amtrak employee who was not on duty but was being transported back on the 188 has filed suit, claiming he suffered a traumatic brain injury, lacerations, emotional trauma, neurological injuries, and orthopedic injuries. The employee is asking for $150,000 in damages; employees are not bound by the $200 million cap, as it applies only to passengers. One of the attorneys involved in the currently filed cases said during a conference that he may fight the damages cap set by Congress. In other cases such as the parking garage collapse in Atlantic City and the Pier 34 collapse in Philadelphia, an arbitrator determined the percentage of the funds each plaintiff would receive. It is likely the Amtrak litigation may follow suit.

The History of the $200 Million Cap

The Amtrak tragedy is the nation’s deadliest train accident in nearly seven years. The $200 million cap is a result of a 1997 effort to rescue Amtrak from financial ruin, with a goal of helping the company eventually become independent. The objective of the cap on damages was to help Amtrak purchase insurance at reasonable rates. Unfortunately, Amtrak is still far from being independent, and if the amount from the 1997 law was adjusted for inflation, it would be closer to $300 million. Historically, this could be the first time the liability ceiling which was specifically designed for Amtrak would actually apply to the railroad. A similar Metrolink passenger rail accident, which occurred in Los Angeles in 2008, resulted in a $200 million payout to victims. The settlement amount was divided among the victims, with amounts between $12,000 and $9 million. In some of those cases, however, the settlement amount was much less than the projected medical costs.

Could the Amtrak Cap Be Challenged?

A California attorney who represented victims from the Metrolink crash said $200 million “can be just a drop in a bucket to compensate people who are the victims of passenger rail collisions in America.” In the recent Amtrak accident, more than twenty victims remain in the hospital, with five in critical condition. A Miami-based lawyer, noted that the people who travel on that particular Amtrak train are “typically successful…the more you’ve got going on in your life, the more your damages are worth.” On the flip side, former Amtrak president, Tom Downs, told Congress in 1996 that “limits on liability are essential for our economic future.”

Contact Our Pennsylvania Personal Injury Lawyers

At Golomb & Honik, our Philadelphia personal injury lawyers are devastated by the recent tragic accident that has occurred in our community. When catastrophic injuries have been suffered, it is important to understand all of your legal rights. The Amtrak train accident in Pennsylvania is different from other types of personal injury lawsuits and requires a law firm with the skill and experience needed to litigate these types of catastrophic injury cases. To learn more about your legal options or to schedule a free consultation call the Philadelphia personal injury lawyers at Golomb & Honik today at 1-800-355-3300 or 1-215-985-9177 or fill out our confidential Contact Form.

The personal injury lawyers at Golomb & Honik have successfully represented individuals in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and throughout the United States.

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