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Bill Nelson files Senate bill to help Amtrak crash victims

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U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson filed legislation today that will aid the victims of last week’s deadly Amtrak derailment outside of Philadelphia.

Nelson’s bill seeks to remove the two-decade-old cap on damages, set by federal law at $200 million, for passenger rail liability following accidents.

If passed, Nelson’s bill would increase the cap to $500 million per accident or incident unless regulation determines a different minimum level of financial responsibility is “necessary or sufficient.”

The amendment would be effective for any passenger rail accident or incident occurring on or after May 12, 2015.

In a statement, Nelson says he based the measure on experts who believe the current cap would not be enough for medical and other expenses, given the scope of the potential damages caused by the Amtrak crash.

“We can’t allow anyone to suffer additionally due to an outdated cap based on mid-1990 dollars,” Nelson said, referring to the 1997 measure limiting what a passenger rail company would have to pay victims in the case of an accident. At the time, Congress set the cap as a necessary measure to keep Amtrak from potential financial failure after a major mishap.

Last Tuesday, a northbound Amtrak commuter train traveling from Washington, D.C., to Philadelphia derailed, killing eight passengers with dozens injured, five critically. Investigators are examining reports that the New York-bound train was hit by an unknown object shortly before the crash.

Nelson filed the measure Monday as the Senate reconvenes for the week.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.

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