Two-hundred million dollars might seem like a lot of money. But when it comes to train accidents, especially train accidents involving many victims 200 million does not go a long way. In the case of the Metrolink accident, where 25 people were killed and 135 injured, 200 million dollars divided between 145 people is unlikely to be enough to provide the victims and their families the money they need for a lifetime medical treatment, rehabilitation, lost wages, and the many other issues in an personal injury accident caused by the negligence of the Metrolink and their contractor who supply the Metrolink engineers.
The 200 million cap is in place because of a seriously flawed law enacted in 1997 by the U.S. Congress called "The Amtrak Reform and Accountability Act". Complicating the issue is the Metrolink accident involved not just an Amtrak train, but the Metrolink train.Most likely the lawyers for the plaintiffs will try to get the courts to agree that the Accountability Act applies only to Amtrak trains, while the major cause of the personal injuries resulting from the accident was the Metrolink train.
But in any case the 200 million dollar cap is blatantly unfair when applied to so many victims. In fact if there were 500 victims injured and killed, the same 200 million dollar cap would still apply. To any reasonably thinking person this does not make sense. In addition, because there is this cap, limiting railroad liability, there is little incentive for industry to spend the money to improve safety on our nation's railroad system. It's cheaper for them to take a chance on an accident, even a major disaster such as the Metrolink crash, than to do the necessary safety upgrades. That is one reason why our nation's railroad infrastructure has been deteriorating ever since the Amtrak Reform and Accountability Act was enacted in 1997.
The U.S. Congress must revisit this outdated law. Not just to increase the cap for compensation for personal injuries in a railroad accident, but to eliminate the cap entirely. When someone is seriously injured in a train accident, the people responsible for the injury need to be made fully responsible for the lifetime of disability and the devastation caused to the families.
It is unfortunate that the Metrolink victims and their families are suffering while the railroad industry and the U.S. Congress is avoiding their responsibility.The modification or repeal of the Amtrak Reform act should be one of the first orders of business for the Obama administration.
Art Majlessi, Personal Injury Lawyer
("Legal information found on this page does not constitute legal advice.")