Amtrak Crash Victims’ Damages Capped at $200 Million

On May 12, 2015, there was a deadly Amtrak derailment in Philadelphia that killed eight and injured over two hundred passengers.  While still under investigation, it appears this incident was caused by the train engineer and the train’s excessive speed while traveling around a curve in the tracks.

In 1997, Congress established a cap on damages in all rail accidents as part of a compromise to bail out the ailing railroad.  This arbitrary cap is imposed regardless of the number of victims or how terrible the accident.  In a situation like this latest Amtrak crash with a massive amount of deaths and injuries, $200 million is simply not enough to cover the medical expenses alone.

Caps on damages are not a new phenomenon.  Many areas of the law invoke caps on damages.  These can include sovereign immunity defenses against governmental entities or medical malpractice caps.  This all came about with “tort reform” or “deform” on behalf of insurance companies and big businesses.  Lobbyists for these multi-billion dollar industries have pressured both state and federal lawmakers to limit the liability for injuries caused by their negligence.  These companies spent billions promoting the notion that the “frivolous lawsuit” was increasing insurance premiums for all consumers.  This is simply not the case.

A study undertaken by the Harvard School of Public Health examined over 1,400 medical negligence claims and found that 97% were meritorious.  Of those 1,400 claims, 80% involved death or serious injury.  According to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, the total amount spent defending medical malpractice claims and compensating victims is $7.1 billion, just 0.3% of America’s $2.2 trillion in healthcare spending.  The fallacy that damage caps lower insurance rates is very apparent in Texas.  Texas passed a medical malpractice cap in 2003.  Following the cap, the nation’s largest medical malpractice insurer, GE Medical Protective, told the Texas Insurance Commissioner that caps had a negligible impact on rates and announced a 19% increase in doctors’ premiums.

The attorneys at the LaBovick Law Group are dedicated to fighting for the rights of those injured by the negligence of others.  If you have been injured by another, call today for a free consultation.

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