In 2015, an Amtrak train traveling from Washington to New York derailed in Philadelphia, killing 8 people and injuring about 200 others.
One year later, Amtrak was ordered to pay $265 million to those affected.
This January, the company quietly added a mandatory arbitration clause to the fine print of its ticket purchases.
What Does This Mean?
With mandatory arbitration, Amtrak passengers who are injured or killed will not be able to sue, nor band together to file class-action lawsuits. By purchasing a train ticket, customers are waiving their right to go before a judge or jury in the event of an accident – even if that accident is fatal or results in catastrophic injuries.
“It’s one of the most anti-consumer and passenger clauses I’ve ever seen,” says Julia Duncan, a representative from the American Association for Justice. Consumer advocates back up her claim, stating that forced arbitration in general hurts customers, who already have a hard time resolving smaller claims with transportation companies.
Senator Richard Blumenthal agrees and plans to investigate Amtrak’s clause. The clause will also be examined in a Congressional hearing next week.
“There’s no reason why consumer complaints about Amtrak should involve mandatory arbitration. Consumers might wish to have arbitration… but they shouldn’t be forced to.”
Arbitration is a hot-button issue in the transportation industry due to high-speed transit’s increased risk for severe injury and death. Airlines, for example, are already forbidden from using mandatory arbitration. Duncan asserts:
“The question of whether or not cases of catastrophic injury or death belong in arbitration is a really important policy question.”
Avoid Arbitration – Don’t Ride Amtrak
While politicians and policymakers decide whether Amtrak’s clause is legally acceptable, consumers should consider alternate modes of transportation. The only way to avoid entering into an arbitration agreement is to refrain from riding Amtrak altogether.
In recent years, the company has had multiple train accidents. About 116 passengers were injured in a Feb. 2018 collision in South Carolina and 3 passengers were killed during a 2017 derailment in Washington state.
With arbitration, consumers are deprived of their access to “public accountability through a judge or jury process,” and according to Duncan, “consumers fare terribly on the whole in the forced arbitration system.”
At Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C., We Are Here For You
To discuss your injuries and find out whether or not you have a case, call us at (202) 659-8600 and schedule a free consultation.