Amtrak has agreed to pay $265 million to settle claims filed by victims of high-speed derailment in Philadelphia last year that killed eight passengers and injured more than 200 others.
Federal judge Legrome Davis, Eastern District of Pennsylvania, approved the agreement Thursday morning. Although it is one of the largest settlements resulting from a rail disaster, it is $30 million less than Amtrak’s $295-million liability cap for such damages.
Amtrak Train 188 crashed May 12, 2015, as it entered a notoriously sharp curve with a 50-mph speed limit going 106 mph, causing several of its cars to jump the tracks and crash.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigated the derailment and concluded that it was likely caused when engineer Brandon Bostian became distracted by reports of another train being struck by a rock hurled at it.
Investigators believe the incident led Mr. Brandon, known among peers as an extremely safety-minded engineer, to lose situational awareness and speed up rather than slow down.
Amtrak has faced more than 125 lawsuits from injured passengers and the families of deceased passengers in the wake of the crash, but the settlement remains open to victims who haven’t yet filed a complaint.
Amtrak took the unusual step of admitting its liability for the crash, which helped expedite the settlement.
“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,” a lawyer for the 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.”
The amount claimants receive will decrease if total damages exceed $265 million and increase if they fall short of that amount. Plaintiffs will be notified of their award amounts by June 30 and disbursements will follow later in the summer.
Plaintiffs have until Nov. 21 to opt into the settlement, which requires them to waive their right to an appeal or separately pursue their own lawsuits.