A federal judge approved $200 million for a settlement fund for victims of a Metrolink commuter train crash that killed 25 people and injured over 100 in California (CA).

The finalization of the settlement went into effect on Thursday, February 3rd, 2011, and releases Metrolink from further liability for the accident.  Sadly, these rail passengers and commuters did not need to lose their lives and suffer this frightening disaster. It was preventable. Also, unfortunately, the money is far less than the individual families deserve, but was limited but a federal law that capped what a jury could do when Amtrak or city rail services companies cause huge injuries. The winners are the insurance companies who do not have to pay for the real harm resulting from reckless mistakes by insureds. The crash was believed to have been caused by an engineer who was text-messaging and ran a red light, resulting in a collision with a freight train.

The case will move to state court next month, where a judge will begin hearing testimony from victims before deciding how to divide the money. The settlement is the largest of its kind for a passenger train wreck. However, the federal law took away the Constitutional right to a jury from the community setting the amount of fair compensation.

If you are driving or operating any type of vehicle, be it a car, train, bus, or truck, do not allow yourself to become distracted. Texting while you are driving is not only irresponsible-in many states, it’s also illegal. If you must send an important message, pull over to the side of the road to do so, or wait until you can focus all your attention on it. Work rules on trains are changing after this catastrophe.

If you or a loved one was harmed in a mass transit accident, contact a reputable personal injury attorney.