June 5, 2015 • Train Accidents
The recent Amtrak derailment near Philadelphia has caused the death of eight people. On top of this, over 200 people out of the 238 passengers suffered injuries, with some of them being in critical condition. Given the speed of over 100 mph while the train was taking a curve, these figures are not surprising, and the crash could have caused much more damage as well.
The engineer in charge of controlling the train was supposed to decrease the speed to 50 mph before negotiating the curve that he knew was coming. Instead, he increased the speed, and hit the brakes hard just before the derailment. Proving liability or the party responsible for the accident is not going to be difficult. However, the next most important aspect for the jury to decide is the amount in damages that they want to reward. Personal injury cases sometimes reach into the millions of dollars but this is quite rare.
This crash will be a huge case though and millions of dollars will be the cost of it.
How is personal injury damages calculated?
Damages are mainly categorized into economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages will include all medical expenses to treat the injuries, loss of income, and estimated expenses for future treatments. Non-economic damages are mainly to do with compensating the victim for pain and suffering that he has to endure because of the injuries. While it is easy to calculate the dollar amount of economic damages, the jury has to stick to certain guidelines while calculating non-economic damages.
How is a train accident case different from other accident cases?
Components of any accident case are the same. The lawyer of the victim will have to prove liability, causation, and damages to the jury. These three things are the same for train accident lawsuits as well. However, according to a federal law passed in 1997, the amount of damages that a railway company has to pay per crash cannot exceed $200 million. This amount includes economic and non-economic damages.
That amount is a massive and is almost always enough but perhaps all that money will be used in this case since it was so extensive and widespread. Almost every passenger is going to have a claim, for example.
What can Amtrak crash victims expect?
There will be potentially 8 wrongful death cases, and around 200 accident cases. Many passengers have suffered very serious injuries, which mean they will need ongoing medical care for the rest of their lives, and they might not be able to earn anything. According to experts, the economic damages alone for a victim who needs ongoing care for the remainder of his life would be around $15 million. But this number is not agreed upon and could be highly exaggerated.
Secondly, some of the victims of the Amtrak crash are high earners. If any of them were among the deceased or seriously injured, they could claim a higher portion of that amount based on that fact. But even if the jury awards a much higher figure that that $200 million amount, the judge will ultimately have to cut this down proportionately to keep damages within that umbrella.
What can victims do?
It may be possible for victims to repeal or revise the $200 million cap. That could take years though.
They could higher outstanding legal representation though to make sure they receive a decent amount of that monetary $200 million pie. The time scope for this is much sooner than the former idea.