Amtrak has reached a $265 million settlement with people affected by last year's derailment in Philadelphia that killed eight and injured more than 200 others.
A federal judge approved the deal this morning. "The settlement is $30 million dollars less than the cap on damages for an accident like this," as NPR's Jeff Brady reports. "But attorneys for the victims say this agreement will get money to their clients more quickly than if the case were litigated."
Amtrak Train 188 crashed in May 2015 after it left the main Philadelphia station bound for New York and then careened into a curve going 106 mph in a 50 mph zone, according to member station WHYY. The National Transportation Safety Board said a distracted engineer was likely to blame, The Two-Way has reported:
"Investigators found that engineer Brandon Bostian was paying attention to radio chatter about a nearby train that had been hit by a rock. After passing by that stopped train, according to the NTSB report, Bostian made the mistake of accelerating into a curve instead of slowing down. That caused the train to derail."
Since the accident, more than 125 cases have been filed against Amtrak by passengers and family members, as Jeff reports. The court documents state that the settlement program is also available to passengers who have not yet filed a lawsuit or settled with Amtrak. According to the terms of the settlement, plaintiffs will be notified of their final award by June 30, and plaintiffs' lawyers expect the claims payments to be distributed by next summer.
"This outcome is historic, not only because of the result, but because of the relatively short period of time — from inception of litigation to reaching this agreement — and actual compensation to the victims," Robert J. Mongeluzzi, a lawyer representing plaintiffs, said in a statement. "While no amount of compensation can replace the loss of human life, or heal the injured, it is immensely significant that the legal aspect of an incident of this magnitude will be resolved in a fraction of the time it could have taken."
Amtrak said in a statement that it "appreciates the guidance and involvement of the court in this matter," according to WHYY. Amtrak said it would not comment further "because of the ongoing nature of the litigation."
Congress passed legislation after the crash that raised the cap on liability for an Amtrak incident to $295 million from $200 million.