« Go back to Blog Index

Urge Congress to Raise Liability Cap on Rail Accidents

My heart goes out to the victims of the May 12 Amtrak derailment in Philadelphia. Unfortunately, as both the victims and their families have undoubtedly learned, Congress places a $200 million liability cap on rail accidents. That is a cap per accident, not per passenger, so the total damages paid out to all wounded passengers and their families, regardless of the severity of the injury, cannot exceed $200 million.

Litigation experts say that amount will not be enough to satisfy claims from the Amtrak derailment, which killed eight passengers and injured 200. These people have been victimized twice—first by the accident itself, and then by an unfeeling Congress that has arbitrarily limited how much money people whose lives were changed forever can expect to receive in compensation.

After the Sept. 12, 2008 train collision in Chatsworth, California, in which a passenger rail train that ran a red light collided with a freight train, there were efforts to raise the cap. That accident killed 25 passengers and wounded more than 100. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Peter D. Lichtman, who was tasked with sorting through the claims from the collision, wrote in court papers that available compensation covered less than half of what was needed. He said he was forced to award compensation on a “triage” system, awarding damages to those most in need.

The $200 million cap was imposed in 1997. Particularly given inflation and rising medical costs, it is past time to raise it. Raising the liability limit might not help the victims of the Amtrak disaster, but it could help the victims of the next train derailment or collision. According to an article by The Philadelphia Inquirer, lawmakers are currently working on raising the cap to $500 million. Please join me in supporting these efforts.

The Walker team is ready to help defend victims of common carrier accidents. If you are an attorney who is interested in helping these victims, please call 1-800-4WALKER or email aoesterle@walkeradvertising.com.