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Train / Train Collisions The train accident lawyers of Pottroff & Karlin LLC work from offices in Manhattan, Kansas and throughout the U.S. for members of the public wronged by railroad companies. We are the only law firm in the nation that commits over 90% of its caseload to railroad related accidents and train crashes which injure the public. We are tirelessly attempting to force the railroad industry to stop ignoring public safety.

Pottroff & Karlin is tirelessly attempting to force the railroad industry to stop ignoring public safety. To be proactive instead of reactive. To help lower the number of train/railroad accidents that occur each year. To stop procrastinating the much needed updates to the safety regulations for railroad crossings, loading docs, train tracks, passenger safety, and more.

Our expert train accident lawyers have repeatedly stood by their uncompromising demand: that the rail industry adopts basic safety engineering and systems safety principles. Currently, roughly 3,000 individuals per year are involved in some form of train accident – a number clearly in need of being reduced. If safety were properly and consistently employed, this number would indeed fall. Our legal experts of have devoted their skill and expertise to overcoming safety hazards and defending train accident victims, and have seen tangible results.

Why seek a train accident lawyer?

Train accidents are incredibly destructive events. The collision of a car and a train is comparable to the collision of a car and a soda can – the size and weight of a train moving even at what might seem to be slower speeds result in a physical impact that is truly devastating. All forms of train accidents, be they truck/train accidents, train/car accidents, derailments, or pedestrian/train accidents, are quite capable of producing catastrophic injuries and death.

A good train accident lawyer will provide you with honest, direct legal guidance if you have been injured in one of these accidents. Railroad companies are notorious for denying responsibility, particularly at railroad crossings, making this form of litigation a complicated arena. A skilled train accident lawyer will tirelessly analyze the facts of your case to determine the degree to which the railroad company was responsible, what sorts of compensation you may receive in a settlement or trial, and ultimately, will fight on your behalf to ensure that your rights are upheld, no matter how uphill the battle may seem.

A good railroad accident lawyer will not lie to you about your case, but will be honest with you about merit: whether or not you do have a case. In addition, a good train accident lawyer will not settle out of court for less than the case should be fought for in court, to ensure that your personal losses and medical expenses are rightfully compensated for.

If you need a good train accident lawyer, contact us for a free initial consultation. We charge no attorney’s fees until a verdict or settlement is reached. Our attorneys have developed a reputation for their experienced, ethical, and creative handling of railroad accident cases, as well as for their untiring dedication and success. Need proof? Feel free to read what other attorneys have to say, or get in touch with our former clients. Our goal is to promote public safety over corporate interests and to ensure that our nation’s railroad crossings become safe. If you’ve been a victim in some way, our team is equipped to guide you to recovery.

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News Background


The railroad came to me and asked me to sign some documents…What should I do?

Don’t sign. If the railroad has asked you to sign some legal papers, seek legal counsel before you proceed. Some railroad companies have acted reprehensibly in these scenarios, so it is in your best interest to seek legal counsel before signing away your rights.

I’ve been injured in a train accident. Should I pursue litigation?

The specifics of your case determine the answer to this question. It is generally in your best interest to contact an experienced railroad accident lawyer to help you decide what actions to take if you or a loved one has been injured or killed.

Do I need an attorney for my railroad accident lawsuit?

Train accident litigation is a complicated legal arena. It is in your best interest to consult an experienced attorney in this area of law. Intense investigation is almost always needed to ensure a successful case. Because of this, it is imperative to act quickly, to ensure that securing evidence and the interviewing of witnesses can be undertaken by your attorney. If you are unsure, you are welcomed to contact our train accident attorneys and set up a free initial consultation to discuss your options.

What happens if the victim of the accident dies before the lawsuit?

The answer is dependent on your local jurisdiction. If you are the surviving relative of a train accident victim, then you may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit for the loss of your loved one. If the victim had a personal injury claim against the railroad for the accident before death, then the personal representative or the executor of the victim’s estate may be able to bring that lawsuit on behalf of the estate. To find out specifics about your jurisdiction, contact an experienced railroad accident attorney.

What legal responsibilities do railroads have to passengers?

Railroad companies have no responsibilities greater than they do towards their passengers. Railroads are considered “common carriers” – meaning that they offer transportation services to the public at large for a set fee. Common carriers are held to the highest standard of care for injuries to their own passengers, sometimes including injuries brought upon by third parties, depending on the circumstances. From boarding to exiting, trains must exercise absolute care with their passengers, or else they are potentially liable for any injury their passengers suffer, even if the railroad is only minimally at fault. Again, this includes many cases where the injury is brought upon by a third party, or dangerous weather conditions.

What responsibilities do railroads have at crossings?

The answer to this question is complicated, and the specifics of any particular case are going to be constrained by a variety of factors. In general, railroads have a mutual and reciprocal responsibility to maintain a safe crossing. This varies state by state, but generally includes sounding the horn both for the required duration and cadence, to travel within the timetable speed, to clear vegetation and other sight obstructions at crossings, and to provide a reasonable smooth and level approach and transition between the roadway and crossing surface. Railroads also have the responsibility to maintain the signs and active warning devices at crossings, if equipped. Finally, railroads have the responsibility to continually inspect the crossing, and if necessary, work with the local road authority to install active warning devices, such as lights and gates.

How common are railroad crossing accidents?

Far too common. According to the Federal Railroad Administration, there were 2,384 crossing collisions in 2008 alone. Operation Lifesaver estimates that a crossing collision occurs roughly once per two hours in the U.S. The statistics are alarmingly high. The fatalities generated by these tragic accidents run high – 797 in 2008 were killed, while 8,371 were injured.

Alarmed? We are too. That’s why we’re fighting hard to change an industry where bare safety technology is usually not even implemented, and for the victims of this industry.

If crossing accidents are so common, why aren’t crossings being made safer?

There are two, equally important ways of approaching this question. First, it is important to emphasize that there are in fact changes being made. Various sectors of the public are well-informed about crossing safety issues and are thus very concerned and active in the push for safety. A tragic series of passenger rail crashes – the California Metrolink crash, then Boston, and now D.C. – has prompted many officials to look intently at railroad safety issues (although the focus here has not been primarily on crossings). While the safety program Operation Lifesaver is callously used by railroad companies for jury tampering (what do I mean?), beneficial safety programs are out there, and new safety improvements are being implemented to various degrees.

In spite of all of this, there can be no doubt that far, far more could be done – particularly by the railroad companies themselves who routinely ignore their public safety responsibilities. Proper warning equipment at railroad crossings costs about $250,000 plus maintenance fees (although railroad companies frequently exaggerate the actual cost of safety equipment to generate the impression that installing safety equipment all over is more implausible than it actually is). However, there is ample new technology available to improve crossing safety that the railroad industry is refusing to embrace. The simple fact of the matter is that it is cheaper for railroads to lose a few lawsuits each year than it would be for them to implement the necessary safety changes to save lives. You’d be amazed to hear the spin put on each case by railroad companies: based on their accounts, you’d think that they must not have any responsibilities at crossings or lights and gates are not effective at reducing the frequency of accidents. This simply isn’t true, but shifting the blame by pointing fingers at states, local municipalities, and victims has proven financially beneficial for the railroads.

So, in short, the railroads have made money off of ignoring safety issues and denying responsibilities at crossings. Even though doing so leads to the loss of life, their financial losses are still less than if they were to actually implement safety technology. At least in the short-run. In the long run, of course, they’d be better off to pour far more dollars into safety improvements.

Why do train derailments happen?

Two umbrella categories can be used to describe how and why derailments occur: technological malfunction (which includes machinery which unexpectedly fails and unkempt, dangerous tracks) and human error (such as mistakes made by the conductor or engineer, inattentiveness or otherwise). It should be emphasized that both of these things are bound to happen with time, but certain steps can be taken to reduce the risk. Humans, even when well trained and highly qualified, are going to make errors. And in a system like our railroad system, technological errors and malfunctions do take place. In spite of the somewhat inevitable occurrence of these two things, however, derailments still can be largely prevented. When implementing safety technologies it is standard to account for both human error and technological malfunction in the equation. Railroad companies have become known for ignoring these factors as they implement safety technology. A bare minimum of systems safety is not appropriate, because mistakes are bound to overwhelm the system.


Train crash cases are unique and complex with many different potential pitfalls, such as federal preemption. Anytime I get hired or even get a call from a train crash victim, my very first call is to Nathan’s firm. Nathan’s knowledge and experience in handling and trying cases against these litigation savvy railroad companies gives me the confidence to know that the clients and cases I refer to him are getting the best of the best.

James PerrinLubbock, Texas

I have had the opportunity to work as co-counsel with Nathan on several railroad crossing accidents cases. In each case, Nathan always possessed an incredible knowledge of the law and the facts, possessed a great talent for aggressive - strategic legal planning and trial tactics while, at the same time, displaying great skill as an effective negotiator. I would recommend him to anyone without hesitation.

Scott McCluenHarriman, Tennessee

Nathan Karlin has my strongest endorsement in the field of railroad crossing cases and personal injury law. I had the pleasure of working with Nathan in a complex railroad personal injury case. I was impressed by Nathan’s knowledge, his work ethic, and his dedication to the client. I look forward to working with Nathan on future injury matters. I am also aware firsthand that he has obtained excellent trial and settlement results in numerous cases involving members of the public harmed by railroad companies.

Joseph M. MillerMandeville, Louisiana

Nathan is a warrior fighting the railroads. As a fellow personal injury lawyer, I have constantly been impressed with his depth of knowledge and his capabilities from case to case. I’d take him into battle with me any day against the biggest railroads and insurance companies on the planet.

Jon C. ClarkAustin, Texas

Bob Pottroff has fought for the victims of the railroads’ callous disregard for safety more than any other attorney that I know. I should know because I am currently Chair-elect of the Railroad Section of ATLA.

Robert SchuetzeBoulder, Colorado

Mr. Pottroff has shaken the rail industry to its very roots. Settlements are now more common as a result of the way he has exposed the industry’s wrongdoing.

Mike EasleyArkansas

Bob Pottroff’s work in railroad safety law is unmatched and he has been the source of great advice and phenomenal creativity.

Roger BrownJefferson City, Missouri

In addition to his substantive contributions to railroad grade crossing safety, I have personally observed his untiring efforts and contributions to improving the integrity of the legal system.

Elizabeth HardyLake Charles, Louisiana

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