Bill summaries are authored by CRS.

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Passed House amended (06/04/2002)

National Transportation Safety Board Reauthorization Act of 2002 - Title I: NTSB Reauthorization - (Sec. 101) Amends Federal transportation law to reauthorize appropriations for the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) for FY 2003 through 2005. Authorizes appropriations necessary to increase the NTSB emergency fund to, and maintain it at, a level not to exceed $6 million (currently, $2 million is available for NTSB expenses for accident investigations).

Authorizes appropriations to the NTSB for FY 2003 through 2005 for necessary expenses of the NTSB Academy.

(Sec. 102) Requires a NTSB employee, in any case in which he or she determines that an accident has occurred during the operation of an aircraft, to notify the aircraft's owner or operator of the right to appeal such determination to the NTSB. Limits such appeals to cases where loss of life does not occur.

(Sec. 103) Requires the Secretary of Transportation to report annually to Congress and the NTSB on the regulatory status of each significant safety recommendation made by the NTSB to the Secretary (or to an Administration within the Department of Transportation (DOT)), and to continue to report on the status of each such recommendation in each subsequent year until final regulatory action is taken on the recommendation or the Secretary (or Administration within DOT) determines that no action should be taken.

(Sec. 104) Requires the NTSB, in cases where it has relinquished investigative priority with respect to an aircraft accident or a railroad accident, to assist, to the maximum extent possible, the agency to which it has relinquished investigative priority in assisting families with respect to the accident.

Requires the NTSB and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to revise their 1977 agreement on the investigation of accidents to take into account the amendments made by this Act, and to submit a copy of the revised agreement to specified congressional committees.

(Sec. 106) Directs the NTSB to study and report to specified congressional committees on the adverse effects, including passenger injuries or other safety problems, associated with carry-on baggage stored in overhead bins aboard passenger aircraft, and sufficient ways to deal with such problems.

Title II: Railroad Family Assistance - (Sec. 201) Sets forth certain responsibilities of the Chairman of the NTSB and the NTSB after being notified of a rail passenger accident resulting in a major loss of life, including to: (1) designate and publicize the name and phone number of a NTSB employee who shall be a director of family support services responsible for acting as a point of contact within the Federal Government for the families of passengers involved in the accident, and a liaison between the rail passenger carrier and the families; (2) designate an independent nonprofit organization to provide emotional care and support to such families; and (3) facilitate the recovery and identification of fatally injured passengers and communicate with the families as to the roles of the Government agencies, the organization, and the rail passenger carrier involved, with respect to the accident and post-accident activities. Declares that it shall be the responsibility of the director of family services to request, as soon as possible, from the rail passenger carrier involved in an accident a list of the names of passengers that were involved in the accident, and to provide such passenger information to the passenger's family. Requires the NTSB, in the course of its investigation of an accident, to ensure, to the maximum extent practicable, that the families of passengers involved are: (1) briefed, prior to any public briefing, about the accident and any other investigation findings; and (2) individually informed of and allowed to attend any public hearings and meetings of the NTSB about such accident.

Prohibits a person (including a State or political subdivision) from impeding the ability of the NTSB (including the director of family support services) or the designated organization from carrying out its responsibilities under this Act, or the ability of the families of passengers involved in an accident to have contact with one another.

Prohibits unsolicited communication concerning a potential action for personal injury or wrongful death to be made by an attorney (including any associate, agent, employee, or other representative of an attorney) or any potential party to the litigation to an individual (other than an employee of the rail passenger carrier) injured in an accident, or to a relative of an individual involved in such accident, before the 45th day following the date of the accident.

Prohibits a State or political subdivision from preventing the employees, agents, or volunteers of an organization from providing mental health counseling services in the 30-day period beginning on the date of an accident.

(Sec. 202) Requires a rail passenger carrier to submit to the Secretary of Transportation and the Chairman of the NTSB a plan for addressing the needs of the families of passengers involved in a rail passenger accident resulting in a major loss of life.

Shields a rail passenger carrier from liability for damages (except for gross negligence or intentional misconduct) in any action brought in a Federal or State court arising out of the carrier's performance in preparing or providing a passenger list, or in providing information concerning a train reservation, pursuant to the carrier's plan.