What’s next after the train derailment: Lawsuits

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SEATTLE — As the National Transportation Safety Board continues to comb through the wreckage of Monday’s deadly train derailment, some are asking what happens next.

Even though it’s rail lines owned by state agencies and located in Pierce County, this is first a federal case if criminal charges are filed.

The FBI told Q13 News they have not started an investigation because information is still coming in about what happened.

That’s not the case, though, on the civil side of the legal ledger.

“We think we know what happened, but there’s always more to the story,” said Sim Osborn, a Seattle attorney who has dealt with cases like this in the past.

Osborn says the Amtrak derailment will likely bring lawsuits.

In many cases, he said, companies are very proactive about minimizing liability.

“Corporations act in their own best interests and that's not a big secret to the American public,” Osborn said.

Part of that may be with fine print for victims and survivors.

Amtrak said Wednesday that it will cover all medical expenses for those who were hurt.

Osborn said those seemingly well-intentioned moves often have caveats.

“Those offers of assistance in the past have come with strings attached,” he said.

Other companies have made families sign waivers that they only get recovery money if they give up the right to sue. Or that more money will be available if they agree not to file.

Amtrak stood by its statement that it will pay for everything.

Osborn was happy to hear that.

“It's also the humanitarian thing to do, to help these people who have been injured or have lost a wage earner in the family. But it's also a very good PR move,” he said.

While the FBI hasn't begun its process, if it decides against charges, the state of Washington could file charges through the State Patrol, Pierce County or other agencies.

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