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Amtrak Faces Only Limited Liability for the Crash in Philadelphia

Regardless of how negligent Amtrak may have been in causing the train derailment and crash in Philadelphia, killing at least seven people and injuring dozens more, its liability for the accident cannot exceed $200 million.  The cap applies to all passenger railroads, and it includes punitive damages, which may come into play if the train was traveling at a reckless speed as some news outlets are reporting. Congress enacted the cap in 1997 to protect the financial interests of Amtrak and the nation’s public transportation systems.  Though $200 million may seem like a lot of money, the damages caused by the accident are catastrophic.  To compensate the families of each of the persons killed will cost probably an average of 5-10 million dollars per family.  Tens of millions more will be required to compensate the dozens of others who were injured in the crash.  The total damages for wrongful death and personal injuries will certainly exceed 100 million dollars.

 Even if the total damages for this tragic crash do not exceed 200 million dollars, it is easy to see how those liability limits could easily seem inadequate in a major train accident.  For example, in 2008, 25 passengers died and more than 100 were injured in a California crash when an engineer ran a red light and collided with a freight train because he was texting while operating a commuter train. The resulting amount of damages was estimated at $600 million.

 Liability limits are just one of many special rules applicable to passenger railroads.  If you or someone close to you is hurt in a train accident, and requires legal help, be sure to consult with attorneys who are experienced in litigating such cases, like the attorneys at Barasch McGarry Salzman & Penson.

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