The Amtrak train crash that occurred in Philadelphia on May 12 has received tremendous media coverage. It also has caused the federal government to look seriously at a number of issues that have been brought to light. There are many questions surrounding the Amtrak crash. The question involving the engineer’s actions is certainly paramount in the investigation. But the amount of money available that victims could receive for injuries isn’t one of them. That’s because federal law caps total rail-accident damages at $200 million.
Congress established the $200 million 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. Obviously, this limit in a mass casualty situation like this is far too low. There will be a huge number of lawsuits and claims arising out of this decision.
Federal investigators are looking into the actions of the train engineer in the derailment. Eight persons were killed, with many more being seriously injured. 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 is allocated among the victims.
Amtrak’s New York-bound Northeast Regional Train 188, which originated in Washington, went off the tracks about 9:30 p.m., closing part of the busiest passenger-rail corridor in the U.S. The train, carrying 238 passengers and five crew members, was traveling 106 miles per hour when it derailed along a curved section of track in Philadelphia’s Frankford neighborhood. Train engineer Brandon Bostian says he has no recollection of the accident. Bostian, who was knocked out by a concussion, is going to speak to National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) personnel investigating the incident.
The engineer applied full brakes, slowing the train to 102 mph on the 50 mph curve before it derailed, according to Robert Sumwalt, an NTSB member. The NTSB said it determined the speed based on preliminary data. There is no way the train should have been traveling at A speed, double the speed limit for that section of track.
The Federal Railroad Administration has ordered Amtrak, the U.S. passenger rail service, to immediately improve safety on its Northeast Corridor route from Washington to Boston. Amtrak must expand the use of technology to control train speeds. The regulators also ordered Amtrak to analyze curves on its tracks along the northeast route and add additional speed limit signs for engineers and conductors.
Source: Insurance Journal
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