There are many questions surrounding Tuesday’s Amtrak crash. The amount of money victims could receive for injuries isn’t one of them as federal law caps total rail-accident damages at $200 million.
Congress established the limit in 1997 on all rail accidents, not just Amtrak, as part of a compromise to bail out the ailing railroad. It’s an arbitrary cap imposed regardless of the number of victims or how horrific the accident, said Joanne Doroshow, executive director of New York Law School’s Center for Justice & Democracy.
“In a mass casualty situation like this, clearly it is way too low,” Doroshow said of the Philadelphia crash which killed eight people and injured about 200. “Medical injuries alone could exceed $200 million.”
As federal investigators turn their attention to the actions of a train engineer in the May 12 derailment, plaintiff lawyers are gearing up for what is likely to be a protracted legal fight for victims, about a dozen of whom remain in critical condition at Philadelphia-area hospitals. The 1997 law limits damages against all defendants for all claims arising from a single accident, which means a judge will ultimately need to decide how the money gets divvied up among victims.
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