Amtrak Crash Victims Compensation Limited By Damage Caps

The Amtrak train crash disaster which occurred in Philadelphia in May of 2015 may continue to plague the victims of the Amtrak derailment in the future. Eight passengers were killed and more than 200 injured, many with permanent injuries.

It was clear from the Federal investigation and statement from the Amtrak officials that liability for these deaths and injuries are 100% Amtrak’s responsibility. Will the victims and their families get adequate compensation?

The answer in this case is a resounding no. In 1997, Congress enacted limitations on all rail accidents in the United States as part of a compromise to bail out the railroad industry. The railroads’ monetary responsibility in any train accident is limited to $200 million dollars. This amount has to cover monetary damages for all persons injured in the accident which includes pain and suffering, medical bills and past and present wage loss. If there are only a few injuries, then the amount is adequate. But in a case such as the Philadelphia Amtrak derailment, the claims will easily be worth more than $200 million dollars.

Caps to limit damage claims are nothing new in his country. The state of California has had a limit on pain and suffering awards in medical malpractice cases in the amount of $250,000. This limit has been around since the early seventies. There has been no adjustment for cost of living. The insurance industry, the drug industry, oil companies and big business have been lobbying state legislatures for years to enact damage caps in all lawsuits for personal injury.

There are caps in medical malpractice cases in many states. Fortunately, trial groups in Pennsylvania have seen to it that no caps, as yet, exist under Pennsylvania law.

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