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Blumenthal Backs Bill to Raise Outdated Liability Cap for Amtrak Victims

(Hartford, CT) – U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) announced today he has co-sponsored new legislation that would replace an outdated cap on damages for passenger rail liability, helping to ensure that victims of last week’s deadly Amtrak derailment receive just, appropriate compensation.

Amtrak’s financial liability is limited to $200 million.  The ceiling was set in the 1990s, and is believed to be insufficient to cover medical expenses and other damages that may be due to victims of the May 12 Amtrak derailment.

This outdated and arbitrary cap was put in place almost two decades ago, and must be lifted now to ensure that the victims of last week’s Amtrak derailment receive just, and appropriate compensation for the severe injuries and losses they have sustained. This measure reflects the tragic and astronomical costs—both in dollars and lives—of our failure to invest in the safety of our nation’s railroads. We must invest now in 21st century safety technology and infrastructure, or pay later in the form of sustained service disruptions and catastrophic accidents,” Blumenthal said.

The bill has four provisions:

  1. Retroactively increases the liability cap from $200,000,000 to $500,000,000 for all claims and indexes the cap annually;
  2. Increases Amtrak’s minimum insurance requirement to $500,000,000 to match the cap;
  3. Requires the Secretary of Transportation to review whether additional adjustments are needed to the cap and whether to require minimum insurance for all rail carriers (not just Amtrak); and
  4. Allows the Secretary of Transportation, if necessary, to provide a reimbursement for the increased incremental cost of insurance.

The bill was introduced this week by U.S. Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL).