On Tuesday, May 12, 2015 The Amtrak Northeast Regional was New York bound and carrying 238 passengers and five crewmembers through Pennsylvania. After passing Philadelphia, the train, for unknown reasons, derailed. Most of the cars ended up sideways or upside down. Forty-nine people were immediately hospitalized. Two hundred passengers were injured. Eight passengers died. The FBI almost immediately began an investigation to determine the cause of the accident. Now, after the dust has cleared and the wreckage is under investigation, those who were on board, and family members, are coming forth to seek compensation for their injuries.
A Search for Answers
As with any tragedy those involved instantly want an answer as to what happened. In this case, those ultimately responsible for the wreckage and those who were hurt desperately would like to know how a routine train ride turned into a tragedy. At this stage in the game the investigation is ongoing. The key facts of the collision are largely a mystery. The 200-plus witnesses have very little information about the incident they were involved in. Thus far the investigation has focused on a few possibilities. It was reported that the train was traveling more than two times faster than the speed limit, about 100 mph, when it entered into a turn. Another possibility is that an object struck the train. Investigators have found some evidence that the windshield was potentially cracked prior to the derailment. Track conditions and human error have also been identified as potential factors. Some confusion was added to the mix as passengers from another train traveling from New York to Philadelphia reported that their train was struck causing a window to crack about 20 minutes prior to the Northeast Regional’s derailment. According to Amtrak, “Had the train been operating at max authorized speed heading into the curve, it would not have come off the tracks.”
The passengers on board the train were thrown about during the wreck. Many suffered a variety of injuries, with some suffering head trauma. The injuries ranged from minor bruising to fatalities.
According to the Federal Railroad Administration, 27 railroads reported 779 derailment and 101 collisions in the past 11 years. Fifty fatalities resulted and 2,685 people reported injuries. Those who suffered injury have a right to seek compensation from Amtrak. Amtrak is what is known as a “common carrier.” This essentially means that their responsibility to their passengers is much higher than, say, a non-commercial driver. With so many injured it is difficult to determine if everyone will receive fair compensation for their injuries. In 1997 Congress passed the Amtrak Reform and Accountability Act. This Act mandated that the highest award that would be paid out by Amtrak for a collision is $200 million. Accounting for the lost lives and serious, potentially permanent injuries suffered by those on board this cap may not be high enough.
When tragedies such as train accidents occur, victims are entitled to compensation. Having an advocate on your side will ensure that your damages are not unfairly reduced due to a limits cap such as the one placed on Amtrak accidents. If you have suffered as a result of another’s negligence, contact the personal injury experts at Napoli Law.