Public Law 110-432/Division A/Title V

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==TITLE V—RAIL PASSENGER DISASTER FAMILY ASSISTANCE==

SEC. 501. ASSISTANCE BY NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD TO FAMILIES OF PASSENGERS INVOLVED IN RAIL PASSENGER ACCIDENTS.[edit]

(a) In General—
Chapter 11 is amended by adding at the end of subchapter III the following:


``Sec. 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 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.´´.


(b) Conforming Amendment—
The chapter analysis for chapter 11 is amended by inserting after the item relating to section 1138 the following:


``1139. Assistance to families of passengers involved in rail passenger accidents.´´.


SEC. 502. RAIL PASSENGER CARRIER PLAN TO ASSIST FAMILIES OF PASSENGERS INVOLVED IN RAIL PASSENGER ACCIDENTS.[edit]

(a) In General—
Chapter 243 is amended by adding at the end the following:


``Sec. 24316. Plans to address needs of families of passengers involved in rail passenger accidents
``(a) Submission of Plan— Not later than 6 months after the date of the enactment of the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008, a rail passenger carrier shall submit to the Chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, the Secretary of Transportation, and the Secretary of Homeland Security a plan for addressing the needs of the families of passengers involved in any rail passenger accident involving a rail passenger carrier intercity train 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 process by which a rail passenger carrier will maintain and provide to the National Transportation Safety Board, the Secretary of Transportation, and the Secretary of Homeland Security 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.
``(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 1139(a)(2) of this title or the services of other suitably trained individuals.
``(3) A plan for creating and publicizing a reliable, toll-free telephone number within 4 hours after such an accident occurs, and for providing staff, to handle calls from the families of the passengers.
``(4) A process for providing the notice described in paragraph (2) 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).
``(5) 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.
``(6) A process by which 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 and by which any possession of the passenger within the control of the rail passenger carrier (regardless of its condition)—
``(A) will be retained by the rail passenger carrier for at least 18 months; and
``(B) will be returned to the family unless the possession is needed for the accident investigation or any criminal investigation.
``(7) A process by which the treatment of the families of nonrevenue passengers will be the same as the treatment of the families of revenue passengers.
``(8) 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.
``(9) 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.
``(10) An assurance that the rail passenger carrier will work with any organization designated under section 1139(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 1139(a)(2) of this title for services provided by the organization.
``(c) Use of Information— Neither the National Transportation Safety Board, the Secretary of Transportation, the Secretary of Homeland Security, nor a rail passenger carrier may release to the public any personal information on a list obtained under subsection (b)(1), but may provide information on the list about a passenger to the passenger's family members to the extent that the Board or a rail passenger carrier considers appropriate.
``(d) Limitation on Statutory Construction—
``(1) RAIL PASSENGER CARRIERS— 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.
``(2) INVESTIGATIONAL AUTHORITY OF BOARD AND SECRETARY— 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 the development of information regarding the nature of injuries sustained and the manner in which they were sustained, for the purpose of determining compliance with existing laws and regulations or identifying means of preventing similar injuries in the future.
``(e) 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.
``(f) Definitions— In this section, the terms ``passenger´´ and ``rail passenger accident´´ have the meaning given those terms by section 1139 of this title.
``(g) Funding— Out of funds appropriated pursuant to section 20117(a)(1)(A), there shall be made available to the Secretary of Transportation $500,000 for fiscal year 2010 to carry out this section. Amounts made available pursuant to this subsection shall remain available until expended.´´.


(b) Conforming Amendment—
The chapter analysis for chapter 243 is amended by inserting after the item relating to section 24315 the following:


``24316.Plan to assist families of passengers involved in rail passenger accidents.´´.


SEC. 503. ESTABLISHMENT OF TASK FORCE.[edit]

(a) Establishment—
The Secretary, in cooperation with the National Transportation Safety Board, organizations potentially designated under section 1139(a)(2) of title 49, United States Code, rail passenger carriers (as defined in section 1139(h)(2) of title 49, United States Code), and families which have been involved in rail accidents, shall establish a task force consisting of representatives of such entities and families, representatives of rail passenger carrier employees, and representatives of such other entities as the Secretary considers appropriate.
(b) Model Plan and Recommendations—
The task force established pursuant to subsection (a) shall develop—
(1) a model plan to assist rail passenger carriers in responding to passenger rail accidents;
(2) recommendations on methods to improve the timeliness of the notification provided by passenger rail carriers to the families of passengers involved in a passenger rail accident;
(3) recommendations on methods to ensure that the families of passengers involved in a passenger rail accident who are not citizens of the United States receive appropriate assistance; and
(4) recommendations on methods to ensure that emergency services personnel have as immediate and accurate a count of the number of passengers onboard the train as possible.
(c) Report—
Not later than 1 year after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary shall transmit a report to the House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation containing the model plan and recommendations developed by the task force under subsection (b).