New York City Personal Injury Law Blog

Amtrak Victims have One Large Pizza to Eat From

Posted on Jun 5, 2015 in Train Accidents

Filing a personal injury lawsuit is the only way you can claim compensation for the harms and losses you have suffered due to somebody else’s negligence or carelessness. When you are injured in a train accident, the procedure is the same, but the amount of compensation for victims is huge for train crashes. A law was passed in 1997 that put a cap of $200 million on damages per train crash which is enough for the most part but for this recent Philly train crash, it may barely get the job done.

The Rail Industry is Broke

Image Courtesy Wikipedia

Image Courtesy Wikipedia

Since rail companies have federal funding because they are not that profitable, this cap is to alleviate the taxpayer’s burden and to keep it in check. This is intended to limit payouts for damages. Even though Congress has attempted to double the present cap, it has been unsuccessful because of America’s national debt and people’s mistrust of juries and rainmaking verdicts.

Personal injury lawyers mainly look for two things, which are liability and insurance limits. For Amtrak crash victims, proving liability is not going to be much of an issue, but the cap puts a serious limitation on the amount that can be claimed since there is around 200 injured and 8 dead.

Your Share of the Pizza could be in Jeopardy

Secondly, there are quite a few passengers who have suffered serious injuries that may take years to work themselves out and in some cases the complete healing may never come to fruition. This requires ongoing treatment and care for the rest of their lives. Compensation for such victims could be more than even wrongful death cases but if you do not have the right attorney or an attorney at all, you could allow others to grab your share of the pie.

What can Work for Amtrak Crash Victims

Since the present Amtrak derailment has caused damages on such a massive scale there is a possibility of victims and their lawyers coming together and challenging the cap itself, on the basis that it cannot be constitutional to limit damages on a figure that was worked out way back in 1997. But this is fraught with danger since the Constitution was worked out in 1776 and 1997 is not that long ago. On top of this, $200 million is more than enough for most train crashes.

On top of this, challenging the cap could be a long process and victims may have to wait for years for this to work itself out. It is difficult to change a law so that it becomes retroactive. This was in place when this crash occurred.

Personal injury lawyers of Amtrak crash victims might also take a stand on punitive damages, and present it as a separate claim, to get around the $200 million cap. Punitive damages may not be included under the present cap, and Congress might be able to pass some extension to the present law to accommodate the enormity of damages of the present tragedy. But this may not happen because America is already in massive debt and any extra money, according to many people, should be spent on America’s infrastructure. But that is unlikely because America has chosen to devote so much money to its expensive health care system and this is another topic as well.

There is another possibility that might provide a quicker solution; however, it will require Amtrak’s cooperation. If the train company admits they messed up, and assesses the amount of damages without taking too much time, there is a chance of a separate fund being set up for compensating victims.

This is what happened for 9-11 and the BP oil spill. But this is a remote possibility here as well since there are clear differences this time around. All those insurance companies for the WTC and for what happened on 9-11 had deeper pockets and so did BP. Amtrak is broke and Amtrak is not as autonomous as BP – it is tied to the American tax payer, the federal system.

Contact and Secure Legal Help

The best bet is to hire an outstanding personal injury attorney if you were on this train because you will need legal help and you do not want someone else taking your slice of the pizza.

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