Last week’s tragic train derailment on Amtrak’s northeast corridor raised a lot of safety and regulatory issues with commuter trains and infrastructure. It also shined a renewed spotlight on an 18 year old federal law that could limit the amount of money victims of Tuesday’s derailment receive from Amtrak.
Congressional limits on payouts from train accidents and derailments
In 1997, Congress passed the Amtrak Reform and Accountability Act, which was designed to provide financial support to Amtrak. As a part of that bill, Congress placed a limit on the amount of money that could be recovered by victims of a train accident. The cap applies to all railroads, not just Amtrak. Based on that legislation, victims of train accidents are currently limited to a maximum payout of $200 million. The cap is not per injury; the total amount that a railroad can payout per accident is $200 million, regardless of the number of injuries or fatalities.