When you purchase a ticket to ride on Amtrak, it’s likely that you’re not thinking about your risk of being injured in a railroad accident. The same can’t be said for Amtrak’s management team, which has changed the language on its tickets to bar passengers who are injured in Amtrak accidents from being able to sue the company in court. By virtue of purchasing and using the new tickets, passengers agree that they will only resolve grievances through binding arbitration. The shift has drawn the attention, which is considering taking action against the policy.
The new language would prevent class-action lawsuits against Amtrak, even in cases of railroad accidents that hurt or kill multiple passengers. Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal has been joined by over a dozen other Democratic senators in sending a letter to Amtrak demanding that the company “immediately eliminate this anti-consumer arbitration and class action policy.”
Railroad Accident Victims Would Be Barred From Accessing the Courts
Amtrak has defended its actions by stating that its policy is not meant to disadvantage victims who have been injured in railroad accidents, but instead to “expedite resolution of claims and to reduce unnecessary litigation costs.” They say that since 2015 they have paid over $11 million in legal fees while resolving court cases, even though the majority of the suits filed against them have been resolved without litigation. But the senators say that forcing railroad accident victims into arbitration “can stack the deck against claimants and cover up wrongdoing.” They say that forced arbitration lacks transparency and lets Amtrak hide negligence and shirk responsibility in cases of accidents caused by a lapse in their duty of care.
Amtrak’s management argues that arbitration provides greater opportunities and efficiency for railroad accident victims, saying, “Agreements to arbitrate are desirable precisely because they trade the procedures of the federal courts for the simplicity, informality, and expedition of arbitration.”