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Amtrak’s Limited Liability in Train Wrecks

Last week, the state of America’s train system became a topic of national debate after an Amtrak train derailed, killing eight passengers and wounding hundreds when it barreled through a sharp turn at over twice the recommended speed. Train wrecks of this severity are uncommon, but when they happen, they cause a great deal of damage to the private property and personal health of many people.

In a more equitable legal system, Amtrak’s insurance would fairly compensate each victim of the crash for the personal damages they received, in terms of medical costs, suffering, and lost income. However, a law passed by the United States government in 1996 limits Amtrak’s liability, ensuring that Amtrak won’t pay any more than $200 million in damages.

This presents a problem for victims of the crash, because the damages almost certainly total more than $200 million. Something similar happened in 2008, when a Los Angeles passenger train collided with a freight train, killing 25 passengers. A judge involved in victim lawsuits estimated that the train crash caused $350 million worth of damages, but the courts were only allowed to award $200 million.

What does this mean for you if you were the victim of a train wreck? For starters, it means that you may not be able to recoup full damages for your injuries and suffering- victims of the Los Angeles crash may only have gotten half what they deserved, possibly less.

It also means that your ability to recoup damages may come down to the skill of your lawyer and the focus they are able to give to your case. When the damages are limited by federal law, the lawsuits that succeed are filed early and argued well. If your lawyer waits to sue, or hasn’t assembled an impressive case, you’re less likely to receive a judgment equal to Amtrak’s true liability.

If you need a South Carolina lawyer with experience handling train wrecks, you need to contact the attorneys at McWhirter, Bellinger, & Associates. We have been highly successful with train-related lawsuits in the past, and we will make sure the system does not overlook you, even in cases where it seems set up to let you down.