49 U.S.C. § 1139 : US Code - Section 1139: Assistance to families of passengers involved in rail passenger accidents

Search 49 U.S.C. § 1139 : US Code - Section 1139: 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 post trauma (!1) 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, with respect to the accident and
      the post-accident activities, of - 
          (A) the organization designated for an accident under
        subsection (a)(2);
          (B) Government agencies; and
          (C) the rail passenger carrier involved.

      (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. - Except as provided in subsection (k),
      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 thereof) 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 or settlement offer 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, including the
      railroad carrier or rail passenger carrier, 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 thereof
      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:
        (1) Rail passenger accident. - The term "rail passenger
      accident" means any rail passenger disaster resulting in a major
      loss of life 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 does 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 a rail passenger
        accident, as determined appropriate by the Board.

      (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.
      (j) Relinquishment of Investigative Priority. - 
        (1) General rule. - This section (other than subsection (g))
      shall not apply to a railroad passenger accident if the Board has
      relinquished investigative priority under section 1131(a)(2)(B)
      and the Federal agency to which the Board relinquished
      investigative priority is willing and able to provide assistance
      to the victims and families of the passengers involved in the
      accident.
        (2) Board assistance. - If this section does not apply to a
      railroad passenger accident because the Board has relinquished
      investigative priority with respect to the accident, the Board
      shall assist, to the maximum extent possible, the agency to which
      the Board has relinquished investigative priority in assisting
      families with respect to the accident.

      (k) Savings Clause. - Nothing in this section shall be construed
    to abridge the authority of the Board or the Secretary of
    Transportation to investigate the causes or circumstances of any
    rail accident, including development of information regarding the
    nature of injuries sustained and the manner in which they were
    sustained for the purposes of determining compliance with existing
    laws and regulations or for identifying means of preventing similar
    injuries in the future, or both.