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Closure elusive nearly 3 months after Amtrak derailment

The last person still hospitalized after the Northeast Corridor Amtrak derailment May 12 has been released. As we observed in a post just days after the wreck, everyone in the region, including Connecticut residents, felt the trauma that day.

Eight people died and more than 200 people were injured in the disaster near Philadelphia. Temple University Hospital confirms that the final person admitted to the facility for treatment after the crash has been transferred to an unnamed facility.

But that does not mean that all the victims' need for medical care is over. Many continue to suffer from the physical and emotional injuries they suffered when the Amtrak train took a curve at more than 100 mph -- more than double the recommended speed.

Many lawsuits for wrongful death and personal injury have been filed. None have been resolved. The official investigation of the tragedy hasn't even determined its cause. Amtrak says it won't contest any of the claims. But again, victims' worries are not over. That's because federal law caps the passenger rail company's liability at just $200 million for the accident.

That ceiling, which has never been adjusted for inflation, is one of the provisions of the Amtrak reauthorization bill Congress passed in 1997. The idea behind that at the time was to provide some assurance that rail companies wouldn't be taken out of commission by a major lawsuit.

But some legal observers say the cap is insufficient for the damage done in this case. They say it effectively forces victims of the disaster to forego at least some compensation for damages they would otherwise be entitled to recover.

Congress is considering legislation that would raise the cap to $295 million, but many say that's not enough, either.

Source: The New York Times, "Limit on Damages Is Squeezing Victims of Amtrak Wreck," Ron Nixon, July 24, 2015

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