NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — A cap on the amount of money Amtrak can pay to victims of last week’s deadly train derailment is coming under fire 18 years after Congress passed the limit.

Amtrak faces paying up to $200 million to victims of the Philadelphia crash. That cap for a single passenger rail incident was part of a late effort in 1997 to pass a law that would rescue Amtrak from financial ruin and help it one day become independent.

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Experts predict the liability from the crash, which left eight people dead and more than 200 injured, would exceed the cap.

“There’s no cap on pain and suffering and on tragedy, and there shouldn’t be a cap on compensation for it,” Philadelphia attorney Robert Mongeluzzi, who represents several of the people critically injured in the derailment, told WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond. “So we will litigate that issue and fight that issue when we reach it.”

Mongeluzzi said he would likely challenge the payout limit on constitutional grounds.

Adjusted for inflation, which the law does not consider, the cap would be just under $300 million now.

Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida, the top Democrat on on transportation issues, has introduced legislation to more than double the cap to $500 million. But the bill faces an uphill battle from Republican legislators who have tried to cut Amtrak subsidies.

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An Associated Press review of past cases found that Amtrak never before has been liable for a $200 million payout for a single passenger rail incident. The Philadelphia crash could be the first time the liability ceiling — designed specifically for Amtrak — would actually apply to the railroad.

On Friday, an Amtrak employee filed the first lawsuit, asking for more than $150,000 in damages. Emilio Fonseca, a conductor who is still hospitalized after suffering head trauma and broken bones in his back, neck and arm is also suing, his lawyer said.

“Mr. Fonseca is termed by his doctors as a miracle man,” attorney Bruce Nagel said.

Amtrak employees are not limited by the $200 million cap because it only applies to passengers.

The son of Derrick Griffith, a dean at Medgar Evers College, said his family plans to file a lawsuit at the appropriate time, Diamond reported.

Investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board have focused on the acceleration of the train as it approached the curve, finally reaching 106 mph as it entered the 50-mph stretch north of central Philadelphia, and only managing to slow down slightly before the crash.

The Amtrak engineer, who was among those injured in the crash, has told authorities that he does not recall anything in the few minutes before it happened.

Investigators also have been looking into reports that the windshield of the train may have been struck by some sort of object.

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