Holding Amtrak Responsible For the February 4, 2018, Collision in South Carolina

As I write this article, I know Amtrak and its lawyers are already devising strategies to offer quick, cheap settlements to a number of people injured in the Cayce, SC collision that took place less than 30 minutes from my office. Amtrak does not want victims or their families contacting lawyers, learning their full legal rights, or having their company's unsafe practices again placed under the microscope by legal teams.

Instead, they are going to begin reaching out to the affected passengers and claim to be willing to do whatever is necessary to make it right. The problem is that Amtrak cannot undo the harm or loss of life. They cannot go back and keep yet another train from derailing. They should not be allowed to keep crashing trains and telling the public how sorry they are. They must be held fully accountable so that safety on our railways is restored.

Get Your Questions Answered By a South Carolina Attorney Before Speaking To Amtrak

Even if you choose not to hire a lawyer, I would encourage you to nonetheless speak with one prior to having any discussions with Amtrak or its claims representatives. What happens after accidents like this is that Amtrak, along with any insurance carrier working on its behalf, begins to set up claims and set reserves. In other words, they assess how much money will need to be reserved for each claim. This "reserve' is based on factors such as a victim's extent of injury, whether ongoing medical care will be necessary, whether the victim will miss time from work, and if an attorney is involved.

The initial reserve set by Amtrak or its insurers can impact how much they are ultimately willing to settle your case for. Likewise, if they think you are in a hurry to resolve your legal claim, they will offer you less. I bring up these points to highlight the importance of, at a minimum, setting up a free phone call with a lawyer before speaking to the train company, as it is almost certain they are going to contact you regarding a potential claim. 

What Happens If Amtrak Refuses To Offer a Fair Settlement 

Under the laws of South Carolina, someone harmed in a train accident such as the one that occurred on February 4, 2018, should receive an amount of money that fully accounts for every way in which they have been damaged (e.g. Past and Future Medical Bills, Lost Earnings, Loss Of Enjoyment of Life, Physical Pain, Mental Anguish). Additionally, Amtrak's recklessness in causing still another derailment, should lead them to offer additional funds that represent punitive damages. If you are looking to calculate what you believe to be a fair settlement, consider this question: How much money would someone have to pay you to volunteer for what you have experienced? That is the true question under the law, and the answer to it should inform how much you will consider accepting.

In the event Amtrak does not come close to a fair settlement offer, you have two choices: 1) Accept their low offer or 2) File a civil action (lawsuit) against them. I would strongly discourage you from the first option since train wrecks are going to keep happening if Amtrak gets off for cheap.

Finding the Right Lawyer To Guide You Through the Legal Process

While you can hire a lawyer at any point in the process, it is kind of like medicine: the sooner a skilled attorney is involved, the more help they will be able to provide. You will want someone with experience handling large scale, high stakes accident cases. Likewise, you are going to want someone who treats you like a person and not a file number.

No matter where you are in the claims or legal process, we are here to help. I want to take the burden of pursuing a legal action off your shoulders, put them on my own, and allow you to focus on returning to the life you knew before the train wreck. I have an experienced team, along with a number of great expert and investigative resources, that is built to hold reckless entities accountable when they cause injury and death in South Carolina. To get in touch with me, use our Live Chat feature, call our 24/7 office number, or contact me on my cell phone at 803-360-6267. You do not have to take on Amtrak by yourself.   

Kenneth Berger
Columbia South Carolina attorney dedicated to securing justice by helping the truly injured