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Amtrak Victims and the Federal Cap on Damages

The $200 million cap on damages set by Congress will inevitably lead to the Amtrak crash victims receiving less compensation than they deserve, and less money to take care of their injuries and lifetime medical care (unless Congress chooses to raise or eliminate the cap).

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Amtrak is a quasi-federal agency, which means they get funding from the federal government but they also operate as a for-profit corporation.  Since the government supports them financially to a large degree, Congress can dictate a cap on damages.

Any cap is inherently unfair by nature. It’s designed to protect the entity against overexposure to damage claims. If a person is injured, it doesn’t matter the extent of their injury or even if they die. They and their family are limited in the financial compensation they can receive with a cap in place.

The philosophy behind caps in this case starts with the fact that government funding comes from taxpayer money. In order to protect the taxpayers, Congress caps on how much money a person can be awarded in damages.The question in the balance is whom the equation should favor. In this case, the cap is much more favorable for the taxpayers, and the injured parties are the ones at a disadvantage.

200 million dollars is definitely not enough to cover all of the injury and death claims that are being made from the Amtrak crash, but the money has to come from somewhere. The only way for the cap to change is if Congress agrees to change it.  Congress could decide to increase the cap for just this one instance, but that is unlikely. Congress could also raise the cap for future Amtrak cases involving deaths and injuries, as was experienced in the Philadelphia crash.

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