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Can Amtrak Crash Victims Claim Workers’ Compensation

Jun 5, 2015 | Train Accidents

Amtrak train 188 derailment caused eight deaths and injuries to more than 200 people with some of them in critical condition. The Amtrak crash is currently being investigated by National Transportation Safety Board; however, proving liability of Amtrak will not be major issue for victims filing personal injury lawsuits. This is because the head engineer was clearly speeding and he has no decent answer on why he was so derelict in his duty.

Thinking Outside the Box

Image Courtesy - ABC News

Image Courtesy – ABC News

Claiming a massive amount of damages, on the other hand might be challenging for most victims because of the $200 million federal cap that was introduced in 1997. This is because Amtrak is barely profitable and this amount is enough for most train accidents. There have been attempts by different senators to increase this cap to $500 million per accident but they have not been successful so far because according to other senators, that amount is not logical and Amtrak is barely solvent. However, some passengers are claiming workers compensation does not fall under this cap.

Who can Claim Workers’ Compensation?

Two distinct groups of people can claim damages through workers compensation, if they were injured in the Amtrak derailment. One group would obviously be injured Amtrak workers who were on the train, and the other group would be people travelling on the train on official business for their employers. In fact, the first workers compensation case was already filed by an Amtrak employee.

However, what lies in store for victims who are not employees of Amtrak, but were travelling on the train as part of their official work? Can their employers be held responsible for providing workers compensation benefits to them? Well, some employers could be responsible, while some may be not.

Regular Commute vs. Traveling to Conduct Employer’s Work

Out of the eight people dead, one person was heading home after participating in several work-related meetings in Washington. Another dead victim of the crash was on her regular commute, returning from work in Philadelphia. Workers compensation laws differ between states and hence these two cases could be considered differently.

For instance, Nebraska follows a commute rule that considers accidents happening during the regular commute to and from the place of employment not compensable. This means the daily commute of employees is not eligible for workers compensation benefits.

However, there is a commercial traveler rule that is an exception to the commute rule. This rule states that if employees were required to travel for performing their duties or for conducting business of their employers then they fall within the scope of their employment and therefore they are eligible for workers compensation benefits during the time they left home and until they have returned. However, complications may arise if the interest of the employer was merely incidental to the trip.

In the case of the two dead victims, the person who was returning from work meetings will be covered under worker’s compensation, whereas the woman who was on her regular commute will not be able to make any claims. However, the family can always file a wrongful death case to claim compensation. Nevertheless, the damages in such instance will come under the purview of the $200 million cap.

If you are a victim of the Amtrak crash, you should seek outstanding legal consultation to find out if your injuries are covered by workers compensation, which does not come under the $200 million ceiling.