Skip to Main Content
Online Journal Train accidents

Causes of Railroad Accidents

By Pottroff & Karlin LLC |

According to preliminary data provided by Operation Lifesaver, there were 2,228 railroad accidents reported nationwide in 2019. When a train accident occurs, the consequences can be devastating.  This raises an important question: Why do railroad accidents happen? While there are many different causes, most train accidents share an important common characteristic: They could have been prevented with proper care. Here, our train accident lawyers highlight some of the most common causes of railroad accidents in the United States. 


Five Common Causes of Railroad Accidents


  • Broken or Poorly Maintained Rails 


Derailments account for the majority of railroad accidents. By some measures, derailments make up more than 90 percent of all train accidents reported nationwide. Although derailments can occur in many different circumstances, track problems are a huge area of concern. In fact, a recent report cited by Scientific American found that broken rails are the leading cause of train derailments nationwide. 


  • Failure to Conduct Proper Maintenance 


Railroad companies have a basic legal responsibility to ensure that their fleet of trains is in proper working order. When companies cut back on inspections and/or maintenance, the consequences can be catastrophic. Railroad companies should never put profits before public safety. A large number of train accidents happen because of a company’s failure to conduct proper maintenance. 


  • Speeding Trains (Especially in Residential Areas) 


Federal regulations limit the speed of trains. Beyond that, conductors have an overriding responsibility to operate their train at a safe speed. Not only does speeding increase the risk of train derailment, it also increases the risk of a railroad crossing accident. Trains must take additional care when passing through residential or highly trafficked areas. 


  • Unprotected Railroad Crossings


Railroad crossing accidents are incredibly dangerous. A poorly marked, poorly designed, or unprotected railroad crossing raises the risk of an accident. There are still many unprotected railroad crossings located throughout the country. Indeed, some studies have found that as many as 80 percent of railroad crossings in the United States lack comprehensive safety protections. If you were injured or a loved one was killed in a railroad crossing collision, contact our train accident attorneys for help.  


  • Driver or Pedestrian Error


Finally, it is worth noting that some train accidents happen because of reckless, careless, or otherwise unsafe actions by drivers or pedestrians. Under federal law, all train accidents are subject to a comprehensive investigation. In some cases, part (or all) of the blame may be assigned to a party not associated with the operation of the train, such as a driver or pedestrian. 


Call Our Railroad Accident Attorneys for Immediate Assistance  


At Pottroff & Karlin, LLC, our railroad accident lawyers are experienced, results-focused advocates for train accident victims and their families. You deserve exceptional legal representation. As the only law firm in the country that devotes 90 percent of its caseload to railroad accidents, we are more than ready to protect your rights. Contact us now for a free, no-commitment case evaluation. Our firm provides nationwide representation. 



Railroad News


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 Perrin Lubbock, 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 McCluen Harriman, 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. Miller Mandeville, 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. Clark Austin, 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 Schuetze Boulder, 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 Easley Arkansas

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

Roger Brown Jefferson 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 Hardy Lake Charles, Louisiana

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8