New York City Personal Injury Law Blog

Possible Outcomes for Amtrak Crash Victims

Posted on Jun 5, 2015 in Train Accidents

According to top personal injury law firms, Amtrak will be facing claims from crash victims to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. The derailment that took place in Philadelphia could have been averted. It is still not clear whether it is was system failure or the mistake of the engineer, but liability of Amtrak will not be hard to prove in court.

The Amtrak Company as such may not be heading for financial trouble because there is a cap of $200 million on damages. This law was passed by the congress way back in 1997 so companies do not have to file for bankruptcy and lay off hundreds of employees. On top of this, some people say Amtrak should not even exist since it is not even profitable but that is another story.

Considering the nature of the train crash that left eight dead and over 200 injured, the $200 million amount may not be enough to cover some of the medical issues some of these people may be facing for many years to come but at least it is something.

Additionally, for Amtrak crash victims, there might be eight wrongful death cases for the people who died in the crash, and some of the 200 victims have suffered very serious injuries that will require ongoing treatment for the rest of their lives. Secondly, some victims were significant earners and the loss of income figure could mount considerably.

Can Amtrak avoid Liability altogether?

It is highly unlikely that Amtrak can prove that it was not responsible for this crash. Firstly, the train was travelling at more than 100 mph when it was taking a curve at the Frankford Junction. The speed limit is 50 mph, which means the train was going at twice the speed limit. How does this happen? Was this engineer asleep? Was this engineer on their Facebook page? Did this engineer have a female companion in the control room and was not paying attention (that is what happened in the Italian cruise liner crash a few years ago)?

Secondly, Amtrak had failed to install a control system on the curve, which is designed to detect excessive speed of the trail and

The accident scene of Amtrak derailment in Philadelphia

The accident scene of the Amtrak derailment in Philadelphia.

apply the brakes on the train automatically. This system has been installed by Amtrak at several points across the country, and the company said that it was about to do so in this area as well. However, the fact is that the system was not installed which could have prevented this accident.

Therefore, whether it was the fault of the engineer or the company’s failure to install a safety system, Amtrak cannot escape liability.

Will the Cap Apply?

Even though Amtrak might not be able to escape liability, the damages it has to pay victims will be limited to $200 million which is a large amount compared to other countries in a similar situation. This amount was fixed by congress in 1997, and the law was mainly implemented to boost the ailing railway industry which is still ailing. The fact is, most people choose to drive or fly in America for transportation purposes.

One possible solution available right now is setting up a compensation fund, as the government set up for BP gulf oil disaster victims. The problem here is that Amtrak does not have deep pockets that BP had and Amtrak is partially financed by the American tax payer. Also, the BP compensation fund was fraught with fraud, controversy, and many people believe the government way overstepped its bounds in that situation.

Find a Remarkable Attorney

Amtrak will most probably start settlement procedures as the cases pile on. However, if the settlement procedures fail and cases go to trial, the litigation process may not take more than three years according to some legal experts. However, victims should find outstanding legal counsel before they agree to any settlement offers from Amtrak.

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