Amtrak has a long history of terrible accidents, and a maintenance backlog that is approaching $66 billion (yes…sixty-six billion dollars). Accident after accident has led to passengers getting seriously injured and losing their lives. Even though the government has made suing Amtrak difficult, our award winning transportation lawyers have experience with complex cases like these. Our legal team is here to seek accountability from Amtrak and others at fault for these accidents and pursue maximum compensation and justice for the people and families affected when unsafe trains, unsafe tracks, and other negligent actions lead to accidents and injuries.
The derailment of The Southwest Chief Train 4 on June 27th is the latest tragic Amtrak accident.
Can You Sue Amtrak For an Injury or Death From a Derailment?
The short answer is yes – if you were injured, or if a family member was killed, due to an Amtrak train derailing you may be able to sue Amtrak and potentially other wrongdoers. However, there are a number of issues that can make suing Amtrak more difficult. Because train derailments (and Amtrak derailments in particular) are among the most legally complex cases to pursue, it is important to get an experienced transportation legal team involved. Our transportation attorneys handle train derailment injury and death cases in all 50 states.
Can I Sue Amtrak if it is a Government Agency?
Because Amtrak was created by the United States government and receives significant taxpayer funding, it is often assumed that Amtrak is a government agency and thus enjoys the legal protections of The Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). However, Amtrak is actually what is known as a, “quasi-public corporation“. This means that it is a separate for-profit company, but the U.S. government owns all of its stock. Because of this, even though it is a government entity, Amtrak may still be sued for negligence resulting in injury or death similar to how other private corporations can be sued for wrongdoing.
Due to its taxpayer funded status, congress has granted Amtrak some additional protections. One of the most important protections is a liability damage cap of $322,864,228 per incident. While this sounds like a huge amount of money, given the significant potential for large numbers of people to sustain horrendous injuries that could require life-long medical support, and the likelihood that many people could also lose their lives, this number might not be nearly enough in some cases. The fact that its liability is capped, and that the U.S. taxpayer will cover any cost, can also make it less likely that Amtrak will be willing to settle claims quickly. This can mean that getting an experienced transportation lawyer on your side right away is important.
2019 Binding Arbitration Addition To Amtrak Ticket Agreements
Because Amtrak has had so many accidents leading to many large lawsuit claims, in 2019 it started including a “forced arbitration clause” in its ticket agreement. This means that when a passenger buys a ticket they agree that they will not sue in court (even for a mass casualty incident) and that any claim will be handled by a single arbitrator that Amtrak gets to choose. This clause was described in Politico by Julia Duncan, senior director for government affairs at the American Association for Justice, as, “…one of the most anti-consumer and [anti-]passenger clauses I’ve ever seen.” These types of forced arbitration clauses can often result in injured people, and the families of those killed by the negligence of others, receiving much less compensation. It is critical that people injured by Amtrak’s negligence hire an experienced attorney to help evaluate all legal options to determine if the forced arbitration clause can be overcome.
Third Party Liability
One very important step in evaluating the potential for a lawsuit in the case of injury or death from a train derailment is whether a “third party” may have played a role in the derailment. Even if the binding arbitration agreement that Amtrak requires riders to agree to cannot be overcome, if a third party (a company other than Amtrak) played a role in the derailment, it may be possible to sue them directly without the limitations imposed when suing Amtrak. Some examples might include: a commercial vehicle (such as a semi or dump truck) that stopped on the tracks, outside contractors who service Amtrak trains, the manufacturer or provider of defective parts or equipment for the train or tracks, and the freight rail companies that are tasked with maintaining the tracks that Amtrak trains run on (examples include: BNSF, CSX and Union Pacific). It is important to hire an experienced legal team as soon as possible to independently oversee the accident investigation on your behalf.
Recent Amtrak Derailment Accidents
Southwest Chief, Los Angeles to Chicago Derailment in Missouri on June 27, 2022
This latest accident occurred on June 27 at 12:42 p.m. Central time, when the eastbound ‘Southwest Chief’ Train 4, traveling from Los Angeles to Chicago, struck a dump trunk at a railroad crossing near Mendon, Missouri. Early reports indicate eight cars and two locomotive engines derailed leading to multiple injuries and at least three fatalities among the train passengers and crew. There was one fatality reported among the occupants of the dump truck. Approximately 150 people were transported to local hospitals for treatment. Amtrak reports that there were 243 passengers and 12 crew members onboard. University Hospital in Columbia, MO has reported at least 19 people from the accident scene had been brought in for treatment.
Our Amtrak transportation accident attorneys are actively monitoring this situation and preparing to investigate. If you or a family member was injured, please contact us for a 100% free consultation on your legal options.
This accident occurred just one day after an Amtrak train hit a car in California at a railroad crossing that had no crossing safety arms. That accident led to the deaths of three people and two other had serious injuries.
Amtrak Empire Builder Derailment in Montana on September 25th, 2021
A derailment on the Empire Builder line near Joplin Montana at 4 p.m. on September 25th lead to multiple deaths. The train was westbound from Chicago to Seattle when passengers say it started to vibrate just before leaving the tracks. Eight of the 10 cars being pulled by two locomotive engines derailed near a switch; and multiple passenger cars rolled over while the train was in motion. The Empire Builder was carrying 141 passengers and 16 crew members. As of September 27th, there have been three fatalities reported and at least seven people hospitalized. Initial descriptions indicate that BNSF is responsible for maintaining the section of track and the switch near where the derailment occurred. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is investigating and the Amtrak train derailment lawyers at Pritzker Hageman are monitoring public reports from the teams on the scene.
Amtrak Derailment Lawyers
The award winning transportation attorneys at Pritzker Hageman have the experience to handle the complex legal issues that arise from an Amtrak train derailment. You can reach us by calling 1-888-377-8900, sending a text to 612-261-0856, or by completing the form below. Your initial consultation is always free and we will never charge you anything at all ever unless we collect compensation for you.