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Amtrak derailment victims awaiting payout decision

TACOMA, Wash. -- Nearly two years after the deadly train derailment in Dupont, the first victims to sue Amtrak over the crash are waiting to see how much a jury will award.

Amtrak has admitted it's at fault for the crash and subsequent injuries but an 8-person jury will determine how much victims will be compensated for what they describe as life-changing injuries. The trial, which is taking place in U.S. District Court in Tacoma, involves two crash victims.

Dale Skyllingstad was a passenger on the train when his railcar came off the tracks after approaching a 30-miles-per-hour curve going 78 miles per hour. His attorneys said he broke his back in five places, fractured his hip and suffered a traumatic brain injury that Skyllingstad said has changed his personality.

The second victim is Blaine Wilmotte, who was a passenger in a truck on Interstate 5 when a railcar crashed onto the truck from the overpass. He was trapped in the truck, in what he described to the jury as 'excruciating pain,' for 90 minutes before being extracted and getting to a hospital.

His femur and ulna both fractured under the weight of the railcar crushing the truck he was in. In medical testimony, it was revealed that he also has an adjustment disorder, which can occur after a traumatic life event. In closing arguments, his attorney said that every day Wilmotte worries he will die.

Wilmotte's wife, Madison Wilmotte, is also named as a plaintiff in the lawsuit. She is suing for loss of consortium for how the accident has impacted her relationship with her husband. Madison Wilmotte was 22 years old and pregnant at the time of the Dupont derailment. She testified that Blaine Wilmotte is more removed now and worries about providing for their family.

Both Blaine Wilmotte and Skyllingstad have returned to work since the crash and Amtrak argues their injuries are not long-lasting. The company's attorneys disputed medical testimony that claims both victims have long-term damage and loss of enjoyment of life.

In closing arguments, both sides gave the jury the settlement figures they're targeting. For the victims, attorneys said they would like the jury to award each $16 million and another $3 million to Madison Wilmotte. Amtrak's targets were much lower. Defense attorneys said fair compensation would be about $1.5 million for Skyllingstad and $2.5 million for the Wilmottes.

The jury left to deliberate Thursday afternoon following closing arguments. The 8-person jury will need to come back with an unanimous decision.

This case and the jury's decision will likely set the stage for future claims against Amtrak. Luvera Law Firm, which represents these two victims, also represents dozens more. In court Thursday, an attorney from another law firm who said he represents three additional victims was sitting in to witness the case.

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