Tragic Amtrak Disaster Reminder of RPDFA Act
May 15, 2015
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The Rail Passenger Disaster Family Assistance Act was passed in 2008 in an effort to coordinate the response to rail disasters in the United States and assign specific responsibilities to the carrier and various governmental agencies when accidents happen. Among other things, the act requires the rail carrier to cooperate and provide needed information and necessary services to passengers involved and their families. This mandate was a direct response to prior instances in which communication and assistance on the part of the rail carrier was lacking, sometimes for days or longer, resulting in a very difficult situation for the families of victims.

The Rail Passenger Disaster Family Assistance Act supports families in more ways than ensuring the train carrier is cooperative. The Chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board is required to designate a “director of family support.” This person acts as the point of contact between the federal government and the families of those injured in the train accident. The Chairman also assigns a nonprofit organization to the families to provide any post-trauma counseling and emotional support required. This designated nonprofit is also responsible for contacting any family members at the scene of the accident as well as those who are unable to travel to the scene. They help the families arrange any services for the deceased.

It is important to note that this law includes prohibitions to assist the families of those killed in a train accident. These include:

  • By law, no one is allowed to impede the Board from assisting the family in the ways described above. This includes private citizens, States and any politically related division.
  • No unsolicited contact about a potential legal claim or settlement is allowed for 45 days after the accident. This applies to lawyers and the railway company.
  • It is absolutely prohibited to deny or in any way impede mental health and counseling to the family for 30 days following the accident.


These prohibitions and the whole of the legislation is designed to help people whose loved ones were lost in a train accident, like the tragedy that happened on May 12, 2015 in Philadelphia. Many people are unaware that this assistance program is available to them. While our intent here is to summarize the Act, for more detailed information, please click here.

All of us at A&G are keeping the victims of the Amtrak 188 derailment in our thoughts and prayers. Our experienced transportation disaster attorneys are well aware of the trauma of an accident like this and the complicated path to seeking justice. We are ready and willing to assist in any way possible. If you or someone you love was injured on May 12 in Amtrak 188, please call us today at (866) 709-0505 or contact us online for a free and confidential consultation about your rights.