Federal Family Assistance Legislation

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Rail Passenger Accidents

​​In 2008, the United States Congress enacted the Rail Safety Improvement Act that included the Rail Passenger Disaster Family Assistance Act (Title 49 U.S.C. sections 1139 and 24316), which charged the NTSB, an NTSB-designated non-profit disaster relief organization, and interstate and intercity high-speed rail passenger carriers involved in the accident with assisting survivors and families of those involved.

 This legislation applies to rail accidents involving the following:

  • An inter- and intrastate high-speed rail passenger carrier or an interstate rail passenger carrier (i.e., Amtrak)
  • Occurs in the United States
  • Results in any loss of life
  • NTSB serves as the lead investigative agency 

The provisions of this federal family assistance legislation do not apply to light (or commuter) rail including subways or metros, tourist, historic, scenic, excursion, and freight rail carriers.


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NTSB Federal Family Assistance Plan for Rail Passenger Disasters​

The NTSB relies on support from federal agencies to meet its family assistance obligations. The NTSB Federal Family Assistance Plans for Rail Passenger Disasters dentifies specific support tasks assigned to several federal agencies, the American Red Cross and the rail carriers.

​Visit the NTSB Family Assistance Resources Library to learn more about participating organizations and related family assistance guidance​.

For questions related to the Federal Family Assistance Legislation and the NTSB Federal Family Assistance Plan for Rail Passenger Disasters, please contact us at assistance@ntsb.gov.​

​Please visit our Transportation Disaster Assistance Operations, Planning and Training page to learn more​​.


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