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Amtrak Train Accident Lawsuits

What you need to know about a lawsuit against Amtrak, in the wake of the catastrophic Amtrak train accident in Philadelphia.

On Tuesday May 12, 2015 an Amtrak train left 30th Street Station in Center City Philadelphia and proceeded to accelerate to a speed of 106 mph, more than double the speed limit.  The Amtrak train was supposed to be travelling at a speed limit of 50 mph.  In the minutes before the derailment, the train’s conductor reported that an object hit the windshield.  The conductor also applied the brakes full force.  Then the train derailed, creating a catastrophic disaster reminiscent of one of the worst train accidents in U.S. history which also took place in Philadelphia in 1943, which left 75 people dead.  The death toll for Tuesday’s Amtrak train accident has risen to eight passengers, with roughly 200 more individuals injured.

While there are some theories of foul play, most evidence indicates that the conductor was just going too fast.  Technology is available to control the speed of a train and over-ride human error, however it was not in use on this train line.  This most recent disaster begs the question, “Why not?”  NY Times – Obstacles in Controlling Train Speeds

At least four people have filed complaints against Amtrak and the train’s engineer, Brandon Bostian.  I expect more lawsuits will follow.  However, Amtrak is limited in their exposure for a single train accident.  Amtrak is a government-run entity, which limits the amount a plaintiff can recover. Federal law limits Amtrak to a $200 million exposure to all victims of a single Amtrak train accident.  Depending on the magnitude of the train accident and related injuries, this could be an inadequate cap on Amtrak’s exposure.

Lawsuits against a government entity must also be filed more quickly than most other lawsuits.  How much time do the victims have to file a lawsuit in the Amtrak train accident?  Not as long as you might think. Most personal injury lawsuits have a two year statute of limitations, however lawsuits against the government must be filed in a much shorter time—sometimes as quickly as 6 months from the date of the accident.  If the lawsuit is not filed within the required statute of limitations, the plaintiff is forever barred from suing Amtrak.

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