Wrongful death lawsuits filed by families of accident victims in Philadelphia Amtrak derailment

by Charles Miller

Amtrak is facing several wrongful death lawsuits in connection with a Philadelphia train accident that killed eight passengers and injured hundreds more. The accident occurred on May 12, 2015, when an Amtrak passenger train derailed while traveling between Washington, D.C. and New York City through Philadelphia’s Port Richmond area. Lawsuits filed against Amtrak allege that the operator, Brian Bostian, failed to reduce the train’s speed while it was traveling around a sharp curve, leading to the derailment.

The first wrongful death lawsuit against Amtrak in connection with the crash was filed by the family of Bob Gildersleeve, a Maryland businessman who was traveling home at the time of the accident. Lawsuits have also been filed on behalf of Rachel Jacobs, the 39 year old CEO of the Philadelphia educational technology company ApprenNet, and Lawrence Saia, who was visiting from Italy at the time of the accident.

Amtrak is also facing at least a dozen other lawsuits filed on behalf of passengers or Amtrak employees who were seriously injured in the derailment. These lawsuits include a personal injury claim filed by Amtrak worker Bruce Phillips, who suffered a traumatic brain injury, multiple contusions, and lacerations in the crash.

According to an investigation into the cause of the crash, Amtrak’s Northeast Regional Train 188 was traveling at more than 100 miles per hour when it approached the 50 mile per hour curve where the derailment occurred. The fact that the train was traveling at more than twice the speed limit at the time of the accident could mean that Amtrak may be held liable for the driver’s negligence in the crash. If any mechanical failure is found to have played a role in the accident, the parties responsible may also face liability for injuries or wrongful deaths that occurred in the crash.

Federal laws cap the total damages that can be assessed against a train operator in connection with a single incident at $200 million, regardless of the number of victims or the nature of injuries caused by the accident. Some attorneys who have commented on the Amtrak derailment in Philadelphia believe that lawyers representing the victims could challenge this damage cap as unconstitutional due to the number of victims involved.

Amtrak has already admitted liability in connection with the deaths of at least two passengers who were killed in the Philadelphia accident. Legal experts say that the company could help to further speed up the process of resolving its liability in connection with the accident and compensating victims of the crash by helping to set up a fund for victims similar to the one that was established following the BP oil spill.

Get Legal Help for Accidents Resulting in Serious Injuries or Wrongful Death

Train accidents may involve liability claims against the train operator involved in the crash, the manufacturer of the train or its mechanical components, or third parties whose negligence contributed to the accident. Many train accident lawsuits have also been filed on behalf of pedestrians that were struck by a train or drivers whose vehicles were involved in a collision with a train, such as at a railroad crossing.

Personal injury lawsuits have also been filed on behalf of railroad workers who were injured on the job under the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA). These lawsuits may involve chemical exposure to toxic substances carried onboard trains or used at a rail facility, chronic injuries caused by repeated strain while working for a railroad company, or railroad ballast injuries caused by using main line ballast instead of walking ballast.

For a free legal consultation about you case and to learn more about filing a lawsuit, contact the lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson by calling toll-free at 1-877-446-9001. You can also reach us by following the link to our free case evaluation form and answering a few simple questions to get started.


Case results depend upon a variety of factors unique to each case. Results of other cases do not guarantee or predict a similar result in any future case.

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by Charles Miller

Charles Miller is a licensed attorney and a partner at Heygood, Orr & Pearson. Charles focuses his practice on areas of complex commercial litigation and personal injury litigation.