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Amtrak Derailment Disaster Spawns Litigation

The litigation over the Amtrak derailment tragedy has begun.  Amtrak is required by statute to maintain coverage of no less than $200 million for rail disasters.  Click here to review this statute. While this may sound like a lot, with 8 tragic deaths and as many as 200 serious injury claims, it will surely not be adequate to compensate the many victims, especially if punitive damages come into play.   Often the largest component in major injury claims are lost earnings and diminished earning capacity.  When you hear about multi-million dollar jury verdicts in injury cases, it is usually because the plaintiff was a large wage earner.  These Amtrak riders were mostly wage earners.  I represent two individuals with claims arising out of this tragedy.  My focus will not only be on their physical and emotional trauma, but also on their earnings losses. Amtrak is likely to interplead the $200 million into court and walk away from any further litigation.  That will leave the claimants to divide up the money.  Perhaps Kenneth Feinberg will be called in to mediate the division of this money.  Mr. Feinberg was the Special Master of the government’s September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, administered the victim assistance fund established after the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, mediated the Penn State sex abuse scandal, and much more.   Contrast the damage caps mandated by statute for the City of Philadelphia and the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority.  The City cannot be required to pay more than $250,000, regardless of the extent of damages caused by its negligence.  SEPTA’s liability is limited to $500,000.  The same cap applies to all other Pennsylvania state agencies.   For a fascinating discussion of train safety technology and much more, click here.

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