When a train accident occurs the damage can be devastating and have a lasting impact on all those involved. Many times the victims are left with overwhelming medical expenses and other expenditures related to the accident as a result. After an accident the sufferers must be made whole again, but due to the regulated maximum amount in which Amtrak is allowed to compensate the collective victims of a single train accident it may leave victims in need of more.
In 1997, the Amtrak Reform and Accountability Act (“the Act”) was passed by legislation to control the amount that Amtrak could be found liable in a single train accident lawsuit. According to the Act, legislation capped the “aggregate allowable awards to all rail passengers, against all defendants, for all claims, including claims for punitive damages, arising from a single accident or incident, shall not exceed $200,000,000.” This tort reform is attached collectively to all victims of single railroad accidents, regardless of the total number of suffering parties seeking damages in the given lawsuit. When the Act was established, the aim of the provision was to ensure that railroad processes would be able to maintain operations during periods of substantial lawsuits against their company.
Unfortunately, the capped amount is not allowing for adequate compensation to all victims of railroad accidents. The federal limit cap does not account for inflation, dating from approximately two decades ago as it was enacted by Bill Clinton while in office. Also, because of the pre-established amount of $200 million the victims and their families are not afforded the opportunity to use the judicial system and its procedures to determine the appropriate amount for their total suffering. Families are finding out that the 1997 provision is not allowing for enough reparation to ensure the expenses produced by the train accident can be paid in full, such as medical expenses and lost wages, because the statute sets the firm limit at $200 million.