Amtrak Liability Cap May Be Increased as Passengers Lawsuits Filed Over Derailment

As a growing number of Amtrak passenger lawsuits continue to be filed by individuals involved in the recent train derailment in Philadelphia, federal lawmakers are proposing that the cap on damages the railroad operator can be forced to pay from any one incident be increased to cover all of the likely personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits that will be filed in the coming weeks and months.

Last Tuesday, Amtrak Regional Train 188 derailed in Philadelphia after it tried to take a turn at more than 100 miles per hour. The train was carrying 238 passengers and five crew members from Washington, D.C. to New York, resulting in eight deaths and varying degrees of injuries for almost all onboard the train.

So far this week, at least four passengers filed personal injury lawsuits against the National Railroad Passenger Corp., known commonly as Amtrak, in federal court in Philadelphia. The complaints follow another lawsuit filed last week by an Amtrak employee who was riding the train as a passenger at the time of the crash.

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All of the lawsuits involve allegations that Amtrak’s negligence in operating the train led to serious and potentially permanent injuries. The latest complaints were filed by Felicidad Redondo Iban and Maria Jesus Redondo Iban, both citizens of Spain, Amy Miller of New Jersey, and Daniel Armyn of New York.

Proposal to Increase Amtrak Damage Cap

As the first of what are expected to be several hundred lawsuits start to be filed, U.S. Senate Commerce Committee Ranking Member Bill Nelson, a Democrat from Florida, introduced a bill that would increase Amtrak’s liability limits for injuries or deaths stemming from one accident to $500 million. Amtrak currently has a $200 million cap per accident to cover such claims.

Some say the bill is unlikely to move forward due to Republican opposition. Republicans recently moved to cut Amtrak’s funding by almost 20%, despite concerns that the company needs to put train speed control features on all of its tracks by the end of the year, due to a congressional mandate.

The area of track where last week’s derailment occurred had no such control system, which investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) say would have almost certainly prevented the deadly crash.

The investigation into the accident continues, with preliminary data indicating that the train accelerated from 70 miles per hour to more than 100 miles per hour just a minute before the crash. The engineer, Brian Bostian, is believed to have attempted to slow the train down as it entered a curve with a 50 m.p.h. speed limit at more than twice that speed, then flew off the tracks.

Bostian, 32, suffered a concussion in the accident and says he has no memory of what occurred after the train left North Philadelphia Station.

Investigators are also looking into the possibility of mechanical problems and whether debris which some say struck the train before the crash may have played a role.


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