Railroad Crossing Safety

Railroads have a high legal responsibility for the safety of their passengers, including boarding, exiting, and everything that goes on in between. If you were injured as a rail passenger, it is important that you find an attorney who fully understands the complicated legal issues that surround this area of litigation. Railroad companies are at times they are guilty of creating an unsafe boarding or exiting environment, or negligence while on the tracks – including accidents and injuries which result from unkempt tracks and the recent problem with inattentive, negligent train personnel. With a skilled attorney, the facts of the case can prevail, and victims can finally see the justice they deserve.

Why Railroad Derailments Accidents Happen

Major causes of railroad accidents are dangerous and unprotected crossings, as well as human error. Overworked conductors, engineers traveling too fast, and train crew members traveling under the influence of drugs or alcohol account for a large number of those accidents. In other instances, poor crossing maintenance or poor maintenance on the tracks or the trains themselves causes collisions or derailments and injuries to both passengers and workers aboard the train. Sometimes trains collide with cars, trucks, or SUVs that are stopped on the tracks.

Sometimes, trains collide with each other. When this happens, it’s because two trains are occupying the same track at the same time. This kind of mistake should never happen and new technology that tracks the location of the train and predicts potential collisions before they occur have proven pivotal to preventing these kinds of accidents. Nonetheless, they still happen, mostly because that technology is underutilized or has yet to be fully implemented by the railroad.

Below are a brief list of some notable train derailments that have occurred within the last decade.

February 2015: Oil Train Derails in West Virginia

In a case that involved the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), CSX Transportation was forced to pay $2.2 million in fines. An investigation determined that the cause of derailment that sent gallons of crude oil into nearby rivers and streams and triggering multiple explosions was a broken railroad track. While no one died in the derailment, one nearby house was completely destroyed.

May 2015: Amtrak Derails Killing 7 People

The site of this derailment was Philadelphia where an Amtrak train derailed costing 7 people their lives and leaving 140 more injured. After an investigation conducted by the NTSB, it was determined that the cause of the fatal accident was a conductor operating a train the train at 100 mph in an area of the track where the speed limit was only 50 mph.

September 2008: Metrolink Derails Near Los Angeles Leaving 25 Dead

A Metrolink commuter train collides head-on with a Union Pacific freight train. The NTSB determined that the Metrolink engineer was text messaging as the two trains approached and failed to notice the red signal which would have alerted him to stop the train. He was among those killed in the crash.

After this accident, the NTSB recommended that all trains be outfitted with “positive train control” technology that combines GPS and other technologies to predict crashes before they happen and prevent them from occurring.

December 2017: Amtrak Commuter Train Derails Hurling Cars into Traffic Below

An Amtrak train derailed in DuPont, Washington on an overpass sending 13 of the 14 cars in the train into traffic below. By some miracle, only three people were killed in the accident. The Amtrak engineer told investigators later that he mistook a signal to stop and, stopping abruptly, caused the train to careen off the tracks and into traffic. The train was traveling 80 mph in a zone that limited its speed to 30 mph.

February 2018:  Two Dead, 100 Injured in South Carolina Crash

An Amtrak train collided with a CSX freight train in Cayce, South Carolina. The incident is still under investigation, but it was determined that the CSX train was stopped when the Amtrak train collided with it.

Liability in Train Accidents

Often times, train accidents are caused by dangerous railroad crossings, equipment malfunctioning or the human error of those who are operating the train.

Damages in Train Accident Lawsuits

Generally speaking, those who survive train accidents do not make it off the train with simple cuts and bruises. Many sustain serious injuries including broken bones and head injuries. Some are left permanently paralyzed or with brain damage. Others never make it off the train.

Those injured in train accidents are entitled to collect damages. The families of those who are lost in train accidents are entitled to collect damages on behalf of their deceased loved one. We must, as conscientious citizens, hold these companies accountable for hiring under-qualified employees allowing their equipment and maintenance to fail

Contact a Train Accident Attorney Today

The attorneys of Pottroff & Karlin, LLC work diligently in all areas of railroad law and are eager to aid you in your legal troubles in any way that they can. If you or someone you know has been injured as a train passenger, contact us, and we’ll discuss your options with you.

Railroad News
September 14, 2020

Missouri Motorist Seriously Injured at Unguarded BNSF Crossing

August 31, 2020

Illinois Delivery Van Driver Killed at Dangerous, Unguarded Canadian National Crossing


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

Pottroff & Karlin LLC remains committed to serving our clients during this difficult time caused by COVID-19. Contact us with any questions.