Home > 106th Congressional Bills > H.R. 2681 (ih) To establish a program, coordinated by the National Transportation Safety Board, of assistance to families of passengers involved in rail passenger accidents. [Introduced in House] ...

H.R. 2681 (ih) To establish a program, coordinated by the National Transportation Safety Board, of assistance to families of passengers involved in rail passenger accidents. [Introduced in House] ...


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106th CONGRESS

  1st Session

                               H. R. 2681

_______________________________________________________________________

                                 AN ACT

  To establish a program, coordinated by the National Transportation 
Safety Board, of assistance to families of passengers involved in rail 
                          passenger accidents.
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
106th CONGRESS
  1st Session
                                H. R. 2681

_______________________________________________________________________

                                 AN ACT


 
  To establish a program, coordinated by the National Transportation 
Safety Board, of assistance to families of passengers involved in rail 
                          passenger accidents.

    Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the 
United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

    This Act may be cited as the ``Rail Passenger Disaster Family 
Assistance Act of 1999''.

SEC. 2. ASSISTANCE BY NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD TO FAMILIES 
              OF PASSENGERS INVOLVED IN RAIL PASSENGER ACCIDENTS.

    (a) In General.--Subchapter III of chapter 11 of title 49, United 
States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following:
``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.''.
    (b) Conforming Amendment.--The table of sections for such chapter 
is amended by inserting after the item relating to section 1136 the 
following:

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

SEC. 3. RAIL PASSENGER CARRIER PLANS TO ADDRESS NEEDS OF FAMILIES OF 
              PASSENGERS INVOLVED IN RAIL PASSENGER ACCIDENTS.

    (a) In General.--Part C of subtitle V of title 49, United States 
Code, is amended by adding at the end the following new chapter:

                    ``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.

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