The proposal regarding the amount of money paid to victims of the May 12th Amtrak derailment in Philadelphia is still being disputed, even with a Congressional deadline fast approaching.
The plan would raise to $295 million the liability cap for railroads – hiking by it $95 million, or nearly 50%.
According to Jonathan Tamari of the Inquirer, this proposal is being scrutinized by rail lobbyists and House Republicans, principal among them House Transportation Chair Rep. Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania.
One side argues that the cap needs to be raised in order to offer proper compensation to victims who have dealt with the loss of family members as well as their own injuries.
“People are going to be getting less than full justice,” said Robert Mongeluzzi, a Philadelphia lawyer representing several victims, including two whose medical bills have topped $1 million.
On the other side, local railroads contest that the change could be expensive, and representatives from state agencies such as SEPTA worry that the federal law would trump state laws under which they face even lighter caps.
For example, Pennsylvania law limits SEPTA’s liability to $1 million per incident, no matter how many people are hurt.
Rep. Bill Shuster cited SEPTA’s worries when asked about the liability cap this week.
“There’s several states that have their own provisions, and I’d like to see that stand,” Congressman Shuster told Tamari.
Others, like SEPTA General Counsel Gino Benedetti, have argued that keeping the cap lower will allow SEPTA to spend its money improvements and infrastructure.
Although this decision passed easily through the Senate, the House is in a “different place” than the Senate on the liability limit, according to Sen. John Thune, Chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.
Lawmakers hope to introduce a final Senate-House transportation package on Nov. 30th and pass it by Dec. 4th.