Amtrak 188 Derailment: Damages Cap May Cause Further Injury

After a terrible tragedy, such as the recent Amtrak derailment that occurred in May of this year, we hear in the news about the numerous people who were injured or killed, and lawsuits in the millions of dollars that are certain to follow. However, the financial details of the legal settlements are rarely made public, and when interest wanes in the media, the average person probably assumes that all of the victims received the proper care and fair treatment.

The truth is, few people have an accurate understanding of the enormous impact a severe personal injury will have upon the lives of those injured, as well as their families.

There are many factors to consider after someone sustains such an injury. Most of these factors rarely occur to either the victims or their families, initially. That is why it is absolutely essential to obtain expert legal advice as soon as possible after a serious injury.

What sounds to the average person like a large amount of money for damages, may not actually be adequate to cover the care and support of a catastrophic personal injury victim when projected expenses are realistically calculated. A recent article in the NY Times discussed the ever-mounting expenses of a couple who were severely injured in the Amtrak Train 188 derailment.

In the case of Amtrak 188, eight passengers died and more than 200 passengers were injured, when the train bound for New York City derailed at Frankford Junction, northeast of Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station. The full extent of the injuries to some of the victims is still being determined, yet we now know that Congress has limited total damages for all passengers to $200 million.

Because many of us simply aren’t aware of the long-term costs for victims of severe injury, it’s important gain a better understanding.

Someone who is catastrophically injured will immediately require critical hospital care, possible surgery or multiple surgeries and continued acute inpatient rehabilitation. In some cases, life-long medical treatment will be required. Depending upon an individual’s insurer or care provider, these initial expenses may be required to be reimbursed if there is a settlement.

These costs are only the beginning. Other expenses typically include:
• Loss of income due to inability to work
• Loss of employer funded healthcare benefits
• Mental health care
• Prescription medications
• Physical therapy
• Specialized medical equipment, such as wheelchairs, orthopedic braces or other devices
• Professional caregivers
• Long-term care facilities

For some, the effects of their injuries worsen with age, increasing the cost of care over time.

Let’s take a look at just two of the types of injuries likely to occur in a high-speed train derailment: traumatic brain injury (TBI) and spinal cord injury (SCI). These kinds of injuries affect virtually every part of a person’s life. All of the expenses listed earlier apply to these injuries. And there are more.

Spinal cord injuries often result in some form of paralysis to the body, such as paraplegia or quadriplegia. According to findings by the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, the yearly expenses of a paralysis victim can range from $500,000 to more than a $1 million, depending upon the severity of the injury. These costs may increase significantly every year thereafter, adding up to millions of dollars over a lifetime. In addition, someone who is paralyzed at an earlier age, say 25, can expect to pay lifetime medical costs as much as 60% higher than someone who is paralyzed at age 50.

For those who suffer a traumatic brain injury, costs are also devastating. According to a survey by the International Federation of Health Plans, victims of TBI pay an average of more than $8,000 per day for acute care and more than $2,200 per day for inpatient rehabilitation. Throughout the course of a lifetime, costs of living may exceed $3 million dollars, depending upon the severity of the injury.

Eight killed, more than 200 injured—through absolutely no fault of their own. The full extent of the injuries are yet to be determined. In view of the enormous expense and suffering that has, and will continue to occur, does setting a cap on damages in any way, shape or form, suggest justice for the victims of Amtrak 188?

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