Metrolink Crash Victims May Be Fighting Over Limited Available Damages

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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The recent Metrolink train crash in Chatsworth, California (just outside Los Angeles) was one of the deadliest in U.S. history with 25 deaths and over 130 injuries – the consequences of which have a lifelong impact on many. Unfortunately, victims and their families may be facing another hurdle as the allowable damages for the accident are capped by federal law.

Amtrak Reform and Accountability Act

The Amtrak Reform and Accountability Act was passed in 1997 to assist the ailing Amtrak train system. As part of the Act, lawmakers decided to limit the damages available to victims of a crash to $200 million. While that may seem like a great deal of money, it actually isn’t in the context of an accident of this size where over 150 people were either killed or injured. Although Metrolink has admitted that it was negligent, the controversy over the Act is heating up with lawyers and lawmakers vowing to challenge the 11 year old Act and introducing legislation to make sure that accidents like this don’t happen again.

Legislation introduced

According to a press release on U.S. Senator Diane Feinstein’s website, both she and Senator Barbara Boxer, have introduced legislation that would increase safety measures to avoid future collisions. The following is from the press release:

In the wake of Friday’s deadly train collision in the San Fernando Valley, [the Senators] introduced legislation that would require all major U.S. railroads to install “positive train control” systems designed to avoid collisions.

The legislation would require:

  • Freight and commuter railroads to come up with plans for such systems within one year of enactment;
  • Set a deadline of December 31, 2012 for these systems to be in place on rail lines designated by the Department of Transportation as high-risk, involving use by major freight and commuter railroads;
  • Set a deadline of December 31, 2014 for installation of these systems on all major rail lines. Priority must be given to rail lines that carry passengers, or that are used to transport hazardous materials; and
  • Authorize the Secretary of Transportation to assess fines up to $100,000 on rail carriers that fail to comply.

While both Senators also plan to discuss the limited liability issue, it is unlikely that it will be resolved anytime in the near future due to the upcoming elections and Congressional recess. In the meantime, victims and their families should seek the counsel of an attorney in this matter as soon as possible. Contact a qualified lawyer whose practice focuses in train accidents. Consultations are free, without obligation and are strictly confidential.

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