When Amtrak Northeast Regional Train 188 bound for New York City derailed outside of Philadelphia on May 12, eight people were killed and about 200 were injured. This catastrophe marks the first time that the liability cap of $200 million, passed by Congress in 1997 when Amtrak faced bankruptcy, could be fully paid out. According to the Associated Press, “a review of past cases found that Amtrak never before has been liable for a $200 million payout for a single passenger rail incident.” The $200 million cap only applies to passengers, not employees.
Since $200 million is unlikely to cover the needs of all the victims and their families, structured settlements can help stretch out their settlements. The fact that this cap exists no matter how many passengers were impacted is all the more reason to think about using structures in each of the cases stemming from this tragedy.
When we put together a structured settlement, we assess our client’s needs. We discuss their medical and financial situations to help them come up with a Life Care Plan. We also assist with the mediations and set up a Qualified Tax-Free Annuity, or structured settlement, as may be agreed upon, and help draft the final settlement docs.
Structures are applied to settlements for injury and wrongful death victims to ensure that the beneficiaries have a stable income stream. For example, if a family loses its breadwinner, the structure can be implemented in order to guarantee monthly income for the family to live on. It’s a common practice among disaster victims, including those who were harmed or lost loved ones on Sept. 11, 2001.
Lawsuits have been filed already on behalf of passengers and employees. The plaintiffs suffered physical and emotional trauma. The attorneys blame Amtrak for failing to use an automatic braking system, which could’ve prevented the derailment when the train swerved around a sharp curve at 106 miles per hour, more than double the posted speed limit.
Due to the damage cap, it appears that all injured Amtrak passengers are filing or will be consolidated into a single lawsuit, unlike the victims of a Metro North derailment in the Bronx on Dec. 1, 2013 where at least 80 passengers filed independently and many of their claims were settled in mediations.We urge all the counsel involved to consider how much the use of structured settlements may help by stretching the capped settlement pool as much as possible in bringing financial relief to the victims and their families.