Talk of lawsuits mount against Amtrak over train derailment in DuPont

SEATTLE -- For many injured in Monday’s Amtrak derailment, the road to recovery will be long.

At least seven survivors have hired attorneys and are already considering lawsuits against Amtrak.

When it’s all said and done, we could have dozens more.

One family of a 26-year-old man recovering at Harborview Medical Center says they are seeking not just compensation but affirmation that another derailment won’t happen again.

Aaron Harris is a budding entrepreneur and once a college lacrosse star.

Aaron was among the 84 on board the Amtrak train that derailed onto I-5 near DuPont. From that moment, Aaron’s life, as he knew it, changed.

“He was catastrophically injured, he’s got four fractures in his back, he has a brain injury,” attorney Robert Gellatly said.

The brain injury is what Aaron’s parents are now most concerned about.

On Monday, when the derailment first happened, Aaron’s parents spent four hours in panic, not knowing if their only child was dead or alive.

“For them it was pure terror,” Gellatly said.

It was friends and family who helped track Aaron down at Harborview.

Gellatly says Aaron’s parents are upset that Amtrak never called them back after taking down their son’s information.

“They are calling because they are trying to find their son, they give all their info they wanted, and they never got a call back,” Gellatly said.

Gellatly says Aaron’s family is considering a lawsuit but first they want information.

"The Harris's want accountability, they want to find out the truth,they want this horrible catastrophe never to happen to anyone else,” Gellatly said.

The goal is similar for six other survivors who have hired Chicago-based attorney Mike Krzak.

“They’ve suffered physical injuries and they are going to have long-term significant emotional damages,” Krzak said.

Krzak says the survivors reached out to him after people with Amtrak tried to get them to sign some papers.

“I don’t know what the papers are, my clients don’t know what the papers are, that’s the primary reason why they called us because they don’t want to sign their rights away,” Krzak said.

On Friday, Q13 News asked Amtrak about the papers but they didn’t answer the question, saying they are not allowed to comment on pending litigation.

But earlier this week, Amtrak’s CEO Richard Anderson did apologize, saying derailments are not acceptable. Anderson said it was a wake-up call and the company also promised to pay all medical expenses.

“Seemingly it’s a good faith step forward,” Gellatly said.

But the Harris family and other survivors who have obtained attorneys say medical costs are not enough.

“There are various components to a personal injury claim, Amtrak has not talked about the human cost."

Gellatly says the lion’s share of a claim includes long-term problems like disability.

Gellatly says Aaron is awake and even talking but he doesn’t remember the traumatic event.

“We don’t know what the future will hold for him,” Gellatly said.

There is no timeline of when the first lawsuits will be filed.

Krzak says he filed a notice with Amtrak asking them to turn over video, audio and training information.

Not only will they be looking into Monday’s incident, but they also want to know if Amtrak changed anything after the 2015 derailment in Philadelphia. Speed also played a role in that crash, killing eight people and injuring more than 200 others.

Amtrak paid $265 million to settle the cases brought against them by the victims in that case.