The Los Angeles Times has reported that the commuter rail system and one of its former contractors (Connex) have made an offer of settlement in the crash that killed 25 people and injured over 135 others.
All personal injury and wrongful death suits involve two issues: liability and damages. Once liability has been established, and only if it has been determined, the question of damages becomes relevant. In this horrific case, liability is conceded as the NTSB determined that the accident was caused by a "contract" engineer who was texting on his cellphone at the time he ran the commuter train through a red light, crashing head-on into a freight train.
The settlement is being offered just before a trial for damages is to be held. The amount of the offer, $200 million, is the federal government's liability cap for passenger rail accidents.
The offer by Metrolink and Connex is clearly not enough money to "make whole" the persons injured and the families of those killed in the crash. It is offered by the defendants to bring victims and their families closure (and money) soon, rather than having to wait, possibly for years, for litigation to conclude. It also would shield the defendants from any additional liability
According to the article, a Congressman in whose district many of the victims resided, will introduce legislation to raise the federal cap.
All the plaintiffs need to be advised by their attorneys on what stands to be one of the costliest rail accidents in history. The path is not clear.