Report text available as:

  • TXT
  • PDF   (PDF provides a complete and accurate display of this text.) Tip ?


106th Congress                                                   Report
  1st Session           HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES                106-313

======================================================================



 
         RAIL PASSENGER DISASTER FAMILY ASSISTANCE ACT OF 1999

                                _______
                                

 September 13, 1999.--Committed to the Committee of the Whole House on 
            the State of the Union and ordered to be printed

                                _______


 Mr. Shuster, from the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, 
                        submitted the following

                              R E P O R T

                        [To accompany H.R. 2681]

      [Including cost estimate of the Congressional Budget Office]

    The Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, to whom 
was referred the bill (H.R. 2681) to establish a program, 
coordinated by the National Transportation Safety Board, of 
assistance to families of passengers involved in rail passenger 
accidents, having considered the same, report favorably thereon 
without amendment and recommend that the bill do pass.

                              Introduction

    Reacting to the post-accident events arising out of the 
1996 Valujet and TWA 800 passenger aircraft crashes, the 
Committee approved (H. Rep. No. 104-793) and the House approved 
(401-4) the Aviation Disaster Family Assistance Act, enacted as 
Title VII of the Federal Aviation Reauthorization Act of 1996 
(P.L. 104-264, 110 Stat. 3264). This law was extended to cover 
foreign air carriers in 1997 (P.L. 105-148). Further changes to 
this regime of assistance for aviation disaster victims were 
recommended by the task force created under the original 1996 
legislation. The Committee (H. Rep. No. 106-167, Part 1) and 
the House in 1999 approved H.R. 1000, the Aviation Investment 
and Reform Act for the 21st Century, incorporating the 
recommended changes.
    The present legislation, H.R. 2681, establishes procedures 
to ensure timely and sensitive handling of intercity passenger 
rail accident information needed by accident victims and their 
families. It also ensures that covered rail passenger carriers 
will provide appropriate assistance to accident victims and 
their families, to the National Transportation Safety Board, 
and to the organization designated by the NTSB to provide 
assistance to families. It tracks as closely as possible the 
aviation disaster assistance legislation, proven successful 
over the last three years, and incorporates the recent changes 
approved by the House. Certain modifications were necessary. 
For example, many intercity passenger trains do not have a 
comprehensive passenger manifest, because passenger boarding 
can occur on an unreserved basis, and at intermediate points on 
a rail journey.
    The bill would apply to Amtrak and other intercity rail 
passenger service. Amtrak is the only current passenger rail 
carrier that would be affected by the provisions of the bill. 
Amtrak is already modifying its plans to respond more 
expeditiously to the needs of families of rail passenger 
accident victims. Over the next few years, there may well be 
multiple operators of rail passenger service besides Amtrak. A 
number of States have already investigated or begun planning 
for high-speed rail corridors. The ICC Termination Act of 1995 
abolished Federal market entry regulation of rail passenger 
service. In 1997, the Amtrak Reform and Accountability Act 
ended the former statutory monopoly of Amtrak over intercity 
rail passenger service and authorized compacts among States to 
support intercity rail passenger service. In light of these 
developments, the Committee considers it prudent to have a 
comprehensive procedural model in place for any future 
passenger operators to follow in preparing for dealings with 
accident victims and their families.
    The bill's necessary modifications to the aviation 
legislation prototype are explained in the accompanying 
section-by-section analysis, including the statutory 
definitions of ``rail passenger accident'' and ``rail passenger 
carrier.'' The Committee intends the legislation to cover rail 
passenger accidents involving substantial on-board casualties, 
but not situations involving only injuries or fatalities among 
persons trespassing on railroad tracks or in vehicles involved 
in grade-crossing collisions. Casualties of this type typically 
involve persons who are in their home region and usually not 
far from home. Moreover, the rail carrier has no prior contact 
with or knowledge of such persons, and therefore no relevant 
information to convey.
    The key features of H.R. 2681 include procedures to assure 
timely and sensitive handling of accident information needed by 
accident victims and their families. This information is 
coordinated among the National Transportation Safety Board, the 
rail passenger carrier, and a designated non-profit charitable 
organization. The designated organization is in charge of 
providing necessary counseling services, ensuring a private 
venue for families to grieve, and assisting families in a 
variety of matters, including a possible memorial service.
    The legislation also protects the victims and their 
families against unsolicited and intrusive contacts by 
attorneys in the immediate post-accident environment, when the 
families may be in shock and not emotionally capable of making 
sound decisions about possible legal redress. The bill also 
ensures orderly preparedness by rail passenger carriers for 
accidents by requiring comprehensive plans to be in place 
governing each carrier's procedures for handling post-accident 
information and family assistance.

                               Conclusion

    The Rail Passenger Disaster Family Assistance Act of 1999 
builds on the successful procedures put in place for aviation 
disasters over the past three years. As rail passenger service 
continues to grow in importance and diversity within our 
transport system, the need for similar procedures to ensure 
timely handling of needed information and sensitive treatment 
of accident victims and their families is also likely to grow. 
The Committee believes that it is wise policy to have proven 
procedures in place for any future rail passenger accidents, 
especially in light of the positive practical experience gained 
under the 1996 aviation legislation.

                       Section-by-Section Summary


Section 1.--Short title

    This section provides that the Act may be cited as the 
``Rail Passenger Disaster Assistance Act of 1999.

Section 2.--Assistance by National Transportation Safety Board to 
        families of passengers involved in rail passenger accidents

    This section authorizes the National Transportation Safety 
Board (NTSB) to provide assistance to families of passengers 
involved in rail passenger accidents within the United States. 
The provision applies only to accidents involving interstate, 
intercity rail passenger carriers, or interstate or intrastate 
high speed rail carriers, but not to those involving tourist, 
historic, scenic, or excursion rail carriers. Intrastate 
intercity carriers such as the Alaska Railroad and commuter 
rail carriers are also excluded.
    Subsection 2(a) of the bill adds a new section 1137 to 
title 49 that lays out the responsibilities of the NTSB and an 
independent organization designated by the NTSB.
    Subsection (a) of section 1137 directs the NTSB Chairman to 
take action as soon as practical after being notified of a rail 
passenger accident resulting in a major loss of life. This 
terminology is used to give the agency flexibility in deciding 
when to invoke the procedures of this section. Where the 
procedures of this bill are invoked, the Chairman is required 
to take the following actions:
          (1) designate an NTSB employee as a director of 
        family support services who shall be a point of contact 
        within the government for the families and a liaison 
        between the rail passenger carrier and the families, 
        and
          (2) designate an independent organization with 
        experience in disasters to be responsible for 
        coordinating the emotional care and support of the 
        families of passengers involved in the accident.
    Subsection (b) of section 1137 states the NTSB shall have 
the primary Federal responsibility for facilitating the 
recovery and identification of passengers killed in the 
accident and communicating with the families of passengers 
involved in the accident as to the roles of the independent 
organization, government agencies, and the rail passenger 
carrier involved in the accident.
    Subsection (c) of section 1137 sets forth the following 
specific responsibilities of the independent organization 
designated in subsection (a):
          (1) Provide mental health and counseling services in 
        coordination with the rail passenger carrier;
          (2) Provide an environment where the families can 
        grieve in private free from intrusion by lawyers and 
        the press;
          (3) Meet with families who come to the scene, contact 
        the other families, and stay in contact until such time 
        as assistance is no longer needed; and
          (4) Arrange a suitable memorial service in 
        consultation with the families.
    Subsection (d) of section 1137 directs the NTSB's director 
of family support services to request the passenger list as 
soon as possible. The rail passenger carrier is to use 
reasonable efforts, with respect to its unreserved trains, and 
passengers not holding reservations on its other trains, to 
ascertain the names of passengers aboard the train involved in 
an accident. The subsection also gives the designated 
organization the option of requesting the list. Recipients of 
that list may not release it publicly, but they may use it to 
provide information to the families.
    Subsection (e) of section 1137 requires that the NTSB brief 
the families prior to any public briefing about the accident. 
Additionally, the Board is required to individually inform the 
families about and allow them to attend any public hearings or 
Board meetings about the accident.
    Subsection (f) of section 1137 requires the designated 
organization, to the extent practicable, to coordinate its 
activities with the rail passenger carrier and enables it to 
use the resources of the carrier to help it carry out its 
duties under this legislation.
    Subsection (g) of section 1137 prohibits any person from 
impeding the NTSB, the director of family support services, or 
the designated organization in carrying out their 
responsibilities or the ability of the families to have contact 
with one another. This subsection also includes a prohibition 
on lawyers making unsolicited communications to families, or 
individuals injured in the accident (other than an employee of 
the rail passenger carrier) before the 45th day following the 
date of the accident. The subsection also provides that no 
state or political subdivision may prevent the employees, 
agents or volunteers of the designated organization from 
providing mental health and counseling services in the 30 days 
after the accident. The director of family support services may 
extend this period an additional 30 days.
    Subsection (h) of section 1137 defines a rail passenger 
accident under this bill as a rail disaster occurring in the 
provision of interstate intercity rail passenger transportation 
or interstate or intrastate high-speed rail passenger 
transportation regardless of its cause or suspected cause. A 
rail passenger carrier is defined as a rail carrier providing 
interstate intercity rail passenger transportation or 
interstate or intrastate high-speed rail passenger 
transportation, except that it does not include a tourist, 
historic, scenic, or excursion rail carrier. It also defines 
passenger so that rail carrier employees aboard the train, as 
well as other victims not aboard the train, are afforded the 
same treatment from NTSB and the designated organization that 
passengers aboard the train receive under this legislation.
    Subsection (i) of section 1137 provides that nothing in the 
section may be construed as limiting the actions that a rail 
passenger carrier may take, or the obligations that a rail 
passenger carrier may have, in providing assistance to the 
families of passengers involved in a rail passenger accident.
    Subsection (b) of Section 2 contains a conforming 
amendment.

Section 3.--Rail passenger carrier plans to address needs of families 
        of passengers involved in rail passenger accidents

    This section adds a new section 25101 to title 49 requiring 
rail passenger carriers to have plans to address the needs of 
families after accidents. Subsection (a) of section 25101 
requires each rail passenger carrier to submit a plan to the 
Secretary and the NTSB, within 6 months of enactment, setting 
forth how that carrier plans to address the needs of families 
of passengers involved in an accident. Subsection (b) sets 
forth the minimum elements of the plan, as follows:
          (1) A reliable toll-free telephone number and the 
        staff to handle the calls from families;
          (2) A process for notifying families of the fate of 
        passengers before the passenger list is publicly 
        released using suitably trained individuals;
          (3) An assurance that a family is notified in person, 
        if practical, and as soon as the rail passenger carrier 
        confirms that the next of kin of that family was in 
        fact on board the train even if the carrier has not 
        verified all the names on the passenger list;
          (4) An assurance that the rail passenger carrier will 
        provide the passenger list based on the best available 
        information to the family support services director and 
        the designated organization immediately upon request 
        whether or not the names have been verified;
          (5) An assurance that the family of each passenger 
        will be consulted about the disposition of all remains 
        and personal effects of the passenger within the 
        control of the rail passenger carrier;
          (6) An assurance that, if requested by the family, 
        the carrier will return the possessions of the 
        passenger unless those possessions are needed for the 
        accident investigation;
          (7) An assurance that any unclaimed items will be 
        retained for at least 18 months;
          (8) An assurance that each family will be consulted 
        about the construction of any monument and the 
        inscription thereon;
          (9) An assurance that the treatment of the families 
        of non-revenue passengers will be the same as the 
        treatment of the families of revenue passengers;
          (10) An assurance that the carrier will work with the 
        designated organization on an ongoing basis to help the 
        families;
          (11) An assurance that the carrier will provide 
        reasonable compensation to the designated organization;
          (12) An assurance that the carrier will assist the 
        families in traveling to the location of the accident 
        and provide for their physical care, such as hotel and 
        meals;
          (13) An assurance that the carrier will commit 
        sufficient resources to carry out the plan;
          (14) An assurance that the carrier will provide 
        adequate training to the employees and agents of the 
        carrier to meet the needs of survivors and family 
        members following an accident; and
          (15) An assurance that, upon request of the family of 
        a passenger, the rail passenger carrier will inform the 
        family of whether the passenger's name appeared on any 
        preliminary passenger manifest for the train involved 
        in the accident.
    Subsection (c) of section 25101 states that a rail 
passenger carrier shall not be liable for damages arising out 
of the preparation or provision of a passenger list to the 
family services director or the designated organization unless 
such liability was caused by gross negligence or intentional 
misconduct.
    Subsection (d) of section 25101 includes definitions. The 
definitions of rail passenger accident and rail passenger 
carrier are the same as in section 1137. The definition of 
``passenger'' means any person aboard a rail passenger 
carrier's train that is involved in a rail passenger accident.
    Subsection (e) of section 25101 states that nothing in this 
section may be construed as limiting the actions that a rail 
passenger carrier may take, or the obligations that a rail 
passenger carrier may have, in providing assistance to the 
families of passengers involved in a rail passenger accident.
    Subsection (b) of Sec. 3 includes a conforming amendment.

                    Hearings and Legislative History

    No hearings were held by the Committee on H.R. 2681.

                        Committee Consideration

    On August 5, 1999, the Full Committee met in open session 
and favorably reported H.R. 2681.

                             Rollcall Votes

    Clause 3(b) of rule XIII of the House of Representatives 
requires each committee report to include the total number of 
votes cast for and against on each rollcall vote on a motion to 
report and on any amendment offered to the measure or matter, 
and the names of those members voting for and against. There 
were no rollcall votes.

                      Committee Oversight Findings

    With respect to the requirements of clause 3(c)(1) of rule 
XIII of the Rules of the House of Representatives, the 
Committee's oversight findings and recommendations are 
reflected in this report.

                          Cost of Legislation

    Clause 3(d)(2) of rule XIII of the Rules of the House of 
Representatives does not apply where a cost estimate and 
comparison prepared by the Director of the Congressional Budget 
Office under section 402 of the Congressional Budget Act of 
1974 has been timely submitted prior to the filing of the 
report and is included in the report. Such a cost estimate is 
included in this report.

                    Compliance With House Rule XIII

    1. With respect to the requirement of clause 3(c)(2) of 
rule XIII of the Rules of the House of Representatives, and 
308(a) of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974, the Committee 
references the report of the Congressional Budget Office 
included below.
    2. With respect to the requirement of clause 3(c)(4) of 
rule XIII of the Rules of the House of Representatives, the 
Committee has received no report of oversight findings and 
recommendations from the Committee on Government Reform and 
Oversight on the subject of H.R. 2681.
    3. With respect to the requirement of clause 3(c)(3) of 
rule XIII of the Rules of the House of Representatives and 
section 402 of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974, the 
Committee has received the following cost estimate for H.R. 
2681 from the Director of the Congressional Budget Office.

                                     U.S. Congress,
                               Congressional Budget Office,
                                   Washington, DC, August 27, 1999.
Hon. Bud Shuster,
Chairman, Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, House of 
        Representatives, Washington, DC.
    Dear Mr. Chairman: The Congressional Budget Office has 
prepared the enclosed cost estimate for H.R. 2681, the Rail 
Passenger Disaster Family Assistance Act of 1999.
    If you wish further details on this estimate, we will be 
pleased to provide them. The CBO staff contacts are James 
O'Keeffe (for federal costs), Lisa Cash Driskill (for the state 
and local impact), and Keith Mattrick (for the private-sector 
impact).
            Sincerely,
                                          Barry B. Anderson
                                    (For Dan L. Crippen, Director).
    Enclosure.

               congressional budget office cost estimate

H.R. 2681--Rail Passenger Disaster Family Assistance Act of 1999

    Summary: CBO estimates that implementing H.R. 2681 would 
not have a significant impact on the federal budget. H.R. 2681 
would not affect direct spending or receipts; therefore, pay-
as-you-go procedures would not apply. H.R. 2681 contains 
intergovernmental and private-sector mandates as defined in the 
Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (UMRA), but CBO estimates that 
these costs would not be significant and would not meet the 
thresholds established by that act.
    H.R. 2681 would establish a formal system to provide 
assistance to families of those involved in rail passenger 
accidents. It would apply only to those accidents within the 
United States involving interstate intercity rail carriers or 
intrastate high-speed rail carries, but not those involving 
tourist, historic, or excursion rail carriers. The bill would 
direct the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to 
assign a director of family support services to assist the 
families of passengers involved in the accidents, including 
serving as a contact person in the federal government and 
acting as a liaison between the families and the rail carrier. 
Sine the NTSB already has a director of family affairs to 
respond to aviation accidents, the provisions of this bill 
could be handled in the same office with no significant 
additional cost to the federal government. Under H.R. 2681, the 
NTSB would also designate a nonprofit organization to provide 
counseling and other support to the families. The bill outlines 
some of the responsibilities of the selected organization.
    H.R. 2681 would direct rail passenger carriers to develop a 
plan of action for responding to a rail accident. The bill 
includes guidelines for this document and would require that it 
be completed within six months after the enactment of the bill. 
Also, any rail passenger carrier involved in a major accident 
would have to provide as complete a passenger list as possible 
to both the NTSB and the organization designated by the NTSB 
upon request. The rail carrier would not be liable for damages 
as a result of disclosing the list. In addition, the bill would 
prohibit attorneys from soliciting victims' families (excluding 
rail employees' relatives) for 45 days following the accident.
    Estimated cost to the Federal Government: Because H.R. 2681 
would not significantly increase NTSB's workload, CBO estimates 
that implementing the bill would cost less than $500,000 a 
year.
    Pay-as-you-go consideration: None.
    Estimated impact on state, local and tribal governments: 
H.R. 2681 contains intergovernmental mandates as defined in 
UMRA, but CBO estimates that because they would not require 
states to change laws or take action, the costs would not be 
significant and would not meet the threshold established by 
that act ($50 million in 1996, adjusted annually for 
inflation). The bill would prohibit a state or local government 
from preventing people associated with disaster counseling 
services who are not licensed in that state from providing 
those services for up to 60 days after a rail passenger 
accident. In addition, the bill would prohibit a person, 
including state and local governments, from impeding the 
actions of the NTSB that would be required by this bill. Last, 
the bill would preempt state liability laws by limiting the 
liability of rail passenger carriers that provide passenger 
lists or information concerning train reservations.
    Estimated impact on the private sector: H.R. 2681 would 
impose three new federal mandates on the private sector. First, 
the bill would prohibit any person from hindering the ability 
of the National Transportation Safety Board and the designated 
nonprofit organization in carrying out their responsibilities 
under the bill or from hindering the ability of families of 
passengers to contact one another. Second, attorneys or other 
potential parties would be prohibited for a 45-day period from 
making unsolicited contact concerning potential legal action 
with injured passengers or family members. Information provided 
by the legal community indicates that state bar associations 
have a variety of regulations governing the action of attorneys 
after such disasters, but most do not prohibit such contact for 
a period as long as 45 days. CBO estimates that the private 
sector's cost of compliance with these prohibitions would be 
minimal.
    Third, the bill would require passenger rail carriers to 
submit a plan detailing assurances and procedures to be invoked 
in case of a railway accident involving a major loss of life. 
Such a plan would have to be submitted to the NTSB and to the 
Secretary of Transportation no later than six months after the 
enactment of the bill. According to industry experts, Amtrak is 
the only current passenger rail carrier that would be affected 
by the provisions in the bill. Although the federal government 
holds most of Amtrak's stock, Amtrak was incorporated as a 
private company by the Rail Passenger Service Act of 1970 and 
is thus treated as a private-sector entity. Amtrak is currently 
modifying its plans to respond more extensively to the needs of 
families of rail accident passengers. According to Amtrak, the 
additional cost of any further modifications to incorporate the 
provisions in the bill and the cost of submitting the plan to 
the NTSB would be small. There also could be direct savings to 
Amtrak, as the bill limits the passenger rail carrier's 
liability arising from its preparing or providing a passenger 
list required by the bill.
    CBO estimates that the total direct costs for private-
sector mandates in this bill would fall well below the 
threshold ($100 million in 1996, adjusted annually for 
inflation) established in UMRA.
    Estimate prepared by: Federal costs. James O'Keeffe. Impact 
on State, local, and tribal governments: Lisa Cash Driskill. 
Impact on the private sector: Keith Mattrick.
    Estimate approved by: Paul N. Van de Water, Assistant 
Director for Budget Analysis.

                   Constitutional Authority Statement

    Pursuant to clause (3)(d)(1) of rule XIII of the Rules of 
the House of Representatives, committee reports on a bill or 
joint resolution of a public character shall include a 
statement citing the specific powers granted to the Congress in 
the Constitution to enact the measure. The Committee on 
Transportation and Infrastructure finds that Congress has the 
authority to enact this measure pursuant to its powers granted 
under article I, section 8 of the Constitution.

                       Federal Mandates Statement

    The Committee adopts as its own the estimate of Federal 
mandates prepared by the Director of the Congressional Budget 
Office pursuant to section 423 of the Unfunded Mandates Reform 
Act. (Public Law 104-4.)

                      Advisory Committee Statement

    No advisory committees within the meaning of section 5(b) 
of the Federal Advisory Committee Act were created by this 
legislation.

                Applicability to the Legislative Branch

    The Committee finds that the legislation does not relate to 
the terms and conditions of employment or access to public 
services or accommodations within the meaning of section 
102(b)(3) of the Congressional Accountability Act. (Public Law 
104-1.)

         Changes in Existing Law Made by the Bill, as Reported

  In compliance with clause 3(e) of rule XIII of the Rules of 
the House of Representatives, changes in existing law made by 
the bill, as reported, are shown as follows (existing law 
proposed to be omitted is enclosed in black brackets, new 
matter is printed in italic, existing law in which no change is 
proposed is shown in roman):

TITLE 49, UNITED STATES CODE

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *



SUBTITLE II--OTHER GOVERNMENT AGENCIES

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


CHAPTER 11--NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *



                        SUBCHAPTER III--AUTHORITY

1131.  General authority.
     * * * * * * *

1137. Assistance to families of passengers involved in rail passenger 
          accidents.

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


SUBCHAPTER III--AUTHORITY

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


Sec. 1137. Assistance to families of passengers involved in rail 
                    passenger accidents

  (a) In General.--As soon as practicable after being notified 
of a rail passenger accident within the United States involving 
a rail passenger carrier and resulting in a major loss of life, 
the Chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board 
shall--
          (1) designate and publicize the name and phone number 
        of a director of family support services who shall be 
        an employee of the Board and shall be 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; and
          (2) designate an independent nonprofit organization, 
        with experience in disasters and posttrauma 
        communication with families, which shall have primary 
        responsibility for coordinating the emotional care and 
        support of the families of passengers involved in the 
        accident.
  (b) Responsibilities of the Board.--The Board shall have 
primary Federal responsibility for--
          (1) facilitating the recovery and identification of 
        fatally injured passengers involved in an accident 
        described in subsection (a); and
          (2) communicating with the families of passengers 
        involved in the accident as to the roles of--
                  (A) the organization designated for an 
                accident under subsection (a)(2);
                  (B) government agencies; and
                  (C) the rail passenger carrier involved,
        with respect to the accident and the post-accident 
        activities.
  (c) Responsibilities of Designated Organization.--The 
organization designated for an accident under subsection (a)(2) 
shall have the following responsibilities with respect to the 
families of passengers involved in the accident:
          (1) To provide mental health and counseling services, 
        in coordination with the disaster response team of the 
        rail passenger carrier involved.
          (2) To take such actions as may be necessary to 
        provide an environment in which the families may grieve 
        in private.
          (3) To meet with the families who have traveled to 
        the location of the accident, to contact the families 
        unable to travel to such location, and to contact all 
        affected families periodically thereafter until such 
        time as the organization, in consultation with the 
        director of family support services designated for the 
        accident under subsection (a)(1), determines that 
        further assistance is no longer needed.
          (4) To arrange a suitable memorial service, in 
        consultation with the families.
  (d) Passenger Lists.--
          (1) Requests for passenger lists.--
                  (A) Requests by director of family support 
                services.--It shall be the responsibility of 
                the director of family support services 
                designated for an accident under subsection 
                (a)(1) to request, as soon as practicable, from 
                the rail passenger carrier involved in the 
                accident a list, which is based on the best 
                available information at the time of the 
                request, of the names of the passengers that 
                were aboard the rail passenger carrier's train 
                involved in the accident. A rail passenger 
                carrier shall use reasonable efforts, with 
                respect to its unreserved trains, and 
                passengers not holding reservations on its 
                other trains, to ascertain the names of 
                passengers aboard a train involved in an 
                accident.
                  (B) Requests by designated organization.--The 
                organization designated for an accident under 
                subsection (a)(2) may request from the rail 
                passenger carrier involved in the accident a 
                list described in subparagraph (A).
          (2) Use of information.--The director of family 
        support services and the organization may not release 
        to any person information on a list obtained under 
        paragraph (1) but may provide information on the list 
        about a passenger to the family of the passenger to the 
        extent that the director of family support services or 
        the organization considers appropriate.
  (e) Continuing Responsibilities of the Board.--In the course 
of its investigation of an accident described in subsection 
(a), the Board shall, to the maximum extent practicable, ensure 
that the families of passengers involved in the accident--
          (1) are briefed, prior to any public briefing, about 
        the accident and any other findings from the 
        investigation; and
          (2) are individually informed of and allowed to 
        attend any public hearings and meetings of the Board 
        about the accident.
  (f) Use of Rail Passenger Carrier Resources.--To the extent 
practicable, the organization designated for an accident under 
subsection (a)(2) shall coordinate its activities with the rail 
passenger carrier involved in the accident to facilitate the 
reasonable use of the resources of the carrier.
  (g) Prohibited Actions.--
          (1) Actions to impede the board.--No person 
        (including a State or political subdivision) may impede 
        the ability of the Board (including the director of 
        family support services designated for an accident 
        under subsection (a)(1)), or an organization designated 
        for an accident under subsection (a)(2), to carry out 
        its responsibilities under this section or the ability 
        of the families of passengers involved in the accident 
        to have contact with one another.
          (2) Unsolicited communications.--No unsolicited 
        communication concerning a potential action for 
        personal injury or wrongful death may 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 the 
        accident, or to a relative of an individual involved in 
        the accident, before the 45th day following the date of 
        the accident.
          (3) Prohibition on actions to prevent mental health 
        and counseling services.--No State or political 
        subdivision may prevent the employees, agents, or 
        volunteers of an organization designated for an 
        accident under subsection (a)(2) from providing mental 
        health and counseling services under subsection (c)(1) 
        in the 30-day period beginning on the date of the 
        accident. The director of family support services 
        designated for the accident under subsection (a)(1) may 
        extend such period for not to exceed an additional 30 
        days if the director determines that the extension is 
        necessary to meet the needs of the families and if 
        State and local authorities are notified of the 
        determination.
  (h) Definitions.--In this section, the following definitions 
apply:
          (1) Rail passenger accident.--The term ``rail 
        passenger accident'' means any rail passenger disaster 
        occurring in the provision of--
                  (A) interstate intercity rail passenger 
                transportation (as such term is defined in 
                section 24102); or
                  (B) interstate or intrastate high-speed rail 
                (as such term is defined in section 26105) 
                transportation,
        regardless of its cause or suspected cause.
          (2) Rail passenger carrier.--The term ``rail 
        passenger carrier'' means a rail carrier providing--
                  (A) interstate intercity rail passenger 
                transportation (as such term is defined in 
                section 24102); or
                  (B) interstate or intrastate high-speed rail 
                (as such term is defined in section 26105) 
                transportation,
        except that such term shall not include a tourist, 
        historic, scenic, or excursion rail carrier.
          (3) Passenger.--The term ``passenger'' includes--
                  (A) an employee of a rail passenger carrier 
                aboard a train;
                  (B) any other person aboard the train without 
                regard to whether the person paid for the 
                transportation, occupied a seat, or held a 
                reservation for the rail transportation; and
                  (C) any other person injured or killed in the 
                accident.
  (i) Limitation on Statutory Construction.--Nothing in this 
section may be construed as limiting the actions that a rail 
passenger carrier may take, or the obligations that a rail 
passenger carrier may have, in providing assistance to the 
families of passengers involved in a rail passenger accident.

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


SUBTITLE V--RAIL PROGRAMS

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


                    PART C--PASSENGER TRANSPORTATION

      GENERAL......................................................24101
     * * * * * * *
      FAMILY ASSISTANCE............................................25101
     * * * * * * *

PART C--PASSENGER TRANSPORTATION

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


                     CHAPTER 251--FAMILY ASSISTANCE

Sec.
25101.  Plans to address needs of families of passengers involved in 
          rail passenger accidents.

Sec. 25101.  Plans to address needs of families of passengers involved 
                    in rail passenger accidents

  (a) Submission of Plans.--Not later than 6 months after the 
date of the enactment of this section, each rail passenger 
carrier shall submit to the Secretary of Transportation and the 
Chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board a plan for 
addressing the needs of the families of passengers involved in 
any rail passenger accident involving a train of the rail 
passenger carrier and resulting in a major loss of life.
  (b) Contents of Plans.--A plan to be submitted by a rail 
passenger carrier under subsection (a) shall include, at a 
minimum, the following:
          (1) A plan for publicizing a reliable, toll-free 
        telephone number, and for providing staff, to handle 
        calls from the families of the passengers.
          (2) A process for notifying the families of the 
        passengers, before providing any public notice of the 
        names of the passengers, either by utilizing the 
        services of the organization designated for the 
        accident under section 1137(a)(2) of this title or the 
        services of other suitably trained individuals.
          (3) An assurance that the notice described in 
        paragraph (2) will be provided to the family of a 
        passenger as soon as the rail passenger carrier has 
        verified that the passenger was aboard the train 
        (whether or not the names of all of the passengers have 
        been verified) and, to the extent practicable, in 
        person.
          (4) An assurance that the rail passenger carrier will 
        provide to the director of family support services 
        designated for the accident under section 1137(a)(1) of 
        this title, and to the organization designated for the 
        accident under section 1137(a)(2) of this title, 
        immediately upon request, a list (which is based on the 
        best available information at the time of the request) 
        of the names of the passengers aboard the train 
        (whether or not such names have been verified), and 
        will periodically update the list. The plan shall 
        include a procedure, with respect to unreserved trains 
        and passengers not holding reservations on other 
        trains, for the rail passenger carrier to use 
        reasonable efforts to ascertain the names of passengers 
        aboard a train involved in an accident.
          (5) An assurance that the family of each passenger 
        will be consulted about the disposition of all remains 
        and personal effects of the passenger within the 
        control of the rail passenger carrier.
          (6) An assurance that if requested by the family of a 
        passenger, any possession of the passenger within the 
        control of the rail passenger carrier (regardless of 
        its condition) will be returned to the family unless 
        the possession is needed for the accident investigation 
        or any criminal investigation.
          (7) An assurance that any unclaimed possession of a 
        passenger within the control of the rail passenger 
        carrier will be retained by the rail passenger carrier 
        for at least 18 months.
          (8) An assurance that the family of each passenger or 
        other person killed in the accident will be consulted 
        about construction by the rail passenger carrier of any 
        monument to the passengers, including any inscription 
        on the monument.
          (9) An assurance that the treatment of the families 
        of nonrevenue passengers will be the same as the 
        treatment of the families of revenue passengers.
          (10) An assurance that the rail passenger carrier 
        will work with any organization designated under 
        section 1137(a)(2) of this title on an ongoing basis to 
        ensure that families of passengers receive an 
        appropriate level of services and assistance following 
        each accident.
          (11) An assurance that the rail passenger carrier 
        will provide reasonable compensation to any 
        organization designated under section 1137(a)(2) of 
        this title for services provided by the organization.
          (12) An assurance that the rail passenger carrier 
        will assist the family of a passenger in traveling to 
        the location of the accident and provide for the 
        physical care of the family while the family is staying 
        at such location.
          (13) An assurance that the rail passenger carrier 
        will commit sufficient resources to carry out the plan.
          (14) An assurance that the rail passenger carrier 
        will provide adequate training to the employees and 
        agents of the carrier to meet the needs of survivors 
        and family members following an accident.
          (15) An assurance that, upon request of the family of 
        a passenger, the rail passenger carrier will inform the 
        family of whether the passenger's name appeared on any 
        preliminary passenger manifest for the train involved 
        in the accident.
  (c) Limitation on Liability.--A rail passenger carrier shall 
not be liable for damages in any action brought in a Federal or 
State court arising out of the performance of the rail 
passenger carrier in preparing or providing a passenger list, 
or in providing information concerning a train reservation, 
pursuant to a plan submitted by the rail passenger carrier 
under subsection (b), unless such liability was caused by 
conduct of the rail passenger carrier which was grossly 
negligent or which constituted intentional misconduct.
  (d) Definitions.--In this section--
          (1) the terms ``rail passenger accident'' and ``rail 
        passenger carrier'' have the meanings such terms have 
        in section 1137 of this title; and
          (2) the term ``passenger'' means a person aboard a 
        rail passenger carrier's train that is involved in a 
        rail passenger accident.
  (e) Limitation on Statutory Construction.--Nothing in this 
section may be construed as limiting the actions that a rail 
passenger carrier may take, or the obligations that a rail 
passenger carrier may have, in providing assistance to the 
families of passengers involved in a rail passenger accident.

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *