BizFeed: Amtrak Lawsuits Face $200M Hurdle

Plus: Nutter's property tax hike in a sleek new website, and millennials skipping college.

A crime scene investigator looks inside a train car after a train wreck, Tuesday, May 12, 2015, in Philadelphia. An Amtrak train headed to New York City derailed and crashed in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Joseph Kaczmarek)

After Tuesday’s Amtrak crash, expect plenty of lawsuits, but law states that damages will be capped at $200 million. (AP Photo/Joseph Kaczmarek)

1. Lawsuits a Certainty After Amtrak Crash, But Damages Capped at $200M

The News: In the wake of the Amtrak train crash, expect a slew of personal injury lawsuits against the company — especially considering that the train reportedly went double the speed limit and that Amtrak’s CEO said the company takes “full responsibility.” The first lawsuit comes from Amtrak employee Bruce Phillips who says he suffered brain trauma, body injuries and emotional stress, according to NBC10.

But lawsuits are likely to be held under the $200 million cap federal cap for rail accidents passed under the Amtrak Reform and Accountability Act.

Why it Matters: With a crash of this magnitude, there’s no chance $200 million covers all the claims.

Bloomberg explains:

Congress established the limit in 1997 on all rail accidents, not just Amtrak, as part of a compromise to bail out the ailing railroad. It’s an arbitrary cap imposed regardless of the number of victims or how horrific the accident, said Joanne Doroshow, executive director of New York Law School’s Center for Justice & Democracy.

“In a mass casualty situation like this, clearly it is way too low,” Doroshow said of the Philadelphia crash which killed eight people and injured about 200. “Medical injuries alone could exceed $200 million.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer has more:

Tom Kline, of the personal injury firm of Kline & Specter, said he anticipated that given the speed of the train, reportedly 102 miles per hour at the time of the derailment, there likely will be numerous serious injuries.

“Given the enormity of the accident, even without assessing the wage loss of some of the folks on the train who seem to be significant earners, I would not believe that a $200 million fund would be adequate,” Kline said.

2. Not Thrilled About Nutter’s Property Tax Increase Plan? He Hopes this Website Makes You Feel Better

The News: Mayor Michael Nutter is hoping to sway public opinion on his plan to increase property taxes 9.3 percent to help fund the struggling school system. So he rolled out a rather sleek new website showing people exactly how far their tax dollars will go for local schools. Check out the site here.

Why it Matters: Whether you like the property tax or not (I’m certainly not a fan considering how much my property taxes soared after the recent reassessment), it’s nice to see government being so transparent. This site lets you know exactly how much extra you’ll be paying per month and gives a breakdown of how the tax hike will help local schools. If citizens actually log on, it could get Nutter some well-needed political capital to push the plan through.

3. Forget College, More Millennials Going Straight to Work

The News: College enrollment fell 2 percent in the spring semester — with the steepest drop coming from students in their mid-20s. That makes a total of 18.6 million students, according to a Bloomberg story citing numbers from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

Why it Matters: Why go to college when you’re just going to come out with massive debt (and possibly a drinking problem?) With the economy improving, there’s more jobs at all levels of the economy. While the decline doesn’t really affect traditional four-year universities, community colleges and for-profit schools are getting hit hard.

U.S. News & World Report breaks it down:

Overall, enrollments dropped 4.9 percent at four-year for-profit institutions in the last year, and 7.4 percent between the fall and spring semesters this year – both the largest declines across all sectors.

Two-year public colleges were also hit hard, with a 3.9 percent decrease in the last year and a 5.3 percent decrease between semesters. Spring enrollments are typically lower because they also take into account students who leave during the fall semester, those who graduate or leave school and new and returning students.