Congressmen Call on Company to Increase Damages For Victims of 2008 Train Crash

California congressman are urging a french company to increase damages payments for the victims of a 2008 train crash.Seventeen members of California's congressional delegation have called on the French company Veolia Environment to set aside considerably more money to compensate victims of a 2008 commuter train crash in Los Angeles County, according to Bloomberg Businessweek.

The lawmakers argued that the medical bills, lost income and other damages caused by the crash will definitely surpass the $200 million already paid by the company as well as Metrolink, which runs the commuter rail service in Southern California. Although the U.S. Congress established a $200 million liability cap for rail accidents, Bloomberg reports the lawmakers argued that Veolia should follow the example of British Petroleum, which paid more than the legal limit following the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

"Veolia now has the same choice. It can stand behind a statutory $200 million damages cap and leave the innocent without just compensation or it can step forward to ensure that no victim of this terrible tragedy is left unable to pay medical bills, stay in their home, or afford to send their children to college," the lawmakers wrote in a letter to Antoine Frerot, the chairman of the board of directors at Veolia Environment.

A Veolia subsidiary employed the train engineer that federal safety officials determined was responsible for the crash. The engineer reportedly was sending a text message while operating the train, causing it to run a red signal and collide with a freight train. The incident was reportedly the worst train accident in state history, killing 25 people and injuring more than 100.

The $200 million liability cap is the result of legislation passed the U.S. Congress in 1997. Congress reportedly set the cap so that passenger train systems could operate even while facing major lawsuits.

The judge charged with dividing the $200 million among the accident victims reportedly said he was forced to short-change some and make "impossible decisions" due to the federal cap, The Associated Press reports.