Where Do U.S. Train Accidents Happen?

Train accidents are terrifying, to say the least. From train-on-train collisions to derailments to toxic spills to pedestrian-train crashes and more, a train accident has the potential to be serious and leave anyone involved with long-term harm. At the law office of Pottroff & Karlin, LLC, we believe that the majority of train accidents that occur in our country would not happen but for negligence, and are therefore entirely preventable–and unacceptable–as such.

Where trains, subways, and light rails exist, train accidents happen; these accidents are not confined to a certain location. Consider the following about where in the United States train accidents happen, as well as what your options are if you’ve been harmed in a train accident.

Train Accidents Throughout History

Train accidents are not a recent phenomenon in the United States; instead, they have been happening–and have been killing people–since the mid-19th century. To be sure, one of the first reported train accidents in the United States (perhaps the very first) occurred in Norwalk, Connecticut in 1853, and left 48 people dead.

Over the next hundred years following the Norwalk crash, there were dozens more collisions and derailments reported. Some of the most notable include a 1904 trainwreck in New Market, Tennessee, which left more than 60 dead and more than 100 injured; the 1907 Pere Marquette Railroad wreck, which injured 101 and killed 31; and the 1922 Missouri Pacific Collision, which killed 34 and left 150 more with injuries.

But in the past few decades, technologies have improved and safety features have been enhanced. In the 21st century, there have fewer than a dozen large train accidents that have resulted in deaths and gained national attention (however, smaller, local accidents continue to happen, and are often tragic for those involved, even if it is only one or two people).

Deadliest Train Accidents in the United States in the 21st Century

An article published in CNN in 2018 offers a review of the deadliest commuter train accidents in the United States in the last two decades. These accidents include:

  • Amtrak, 2002, Florida. When approaching a left-hand curve near Crescent City, Florida, the Amtrak train derailed, killed four people and injured more than 140, 36 of whom suffered injuries classified as “serious.”
  • Metrolink commuter train, 2005, Glendale, CA. A train struck a vehicle which had been illegally parked on the tracks, leading to the death of 11 people. (The individual who had parked the vehicle on the tracks, Juan Manuel Alvarez, was convicted of murder for the incident.)
  • Metrolink commuter train, 2008, Chatsworth, CA. Two trains collided head-on on September 12, 2008, leaving more than 100 injured and taking the lives of 25.
  • WMATA commuter train, 2009, Washington. When a WMATA struck the rear-end of another in June of 2009, nine people, including the operator of the commuter train, were killed, and dozens more were injured.
  • Amtrak, 2011, Churchill County, Nevada. A train that was heading from Chicago to California was struck by a commercial vehicle at a crossing in Churchill County, killed the truck driver, four passengers within the train, and the train conductor. Additionally, there were 16 people injured.
  • Metro-North, 2013, Bronx, New York. At least 60 people were injured and four killed when a Metro-North train derailed when approaching a left-hand curve.
  • Amtrak, 2015, Philadelphia. The Philadelphia Amtrak derailment of 2015 was one of the worst accidents and train derailments in history, leaving more than 200 people injured and ending the lives of eight.
  • Amtrak, 2017, Washington. Amtrak’s reputation for train derailments continued in mid-December, 2017, when a train not only derailed, but also lost two of its cars off of both sides of an overpass, leading to fatal injuries for those involved. Reports show that three were killed and more than 100 suffered injuries.
  • Amtrak, 2018, South Carolina. More than 100 people were injured, and two killed, when an Amtrak train traveling between Miami and New York collided with a freight train.

Where Do Train Accidents Happen?

The data shows that train accident can happen just about anywhere in the country where trains are present, from California to New York. That being said, two of the most common general locations for train accidents include:

  • Crossings. Anywhere that train tracks cross a road that is used by the operators of motor vehicles, the risk of a train accident is greater. Train crossing accidents are a major type of train collision, and may happen when a vehicle fails to yield to an oncoming train, or when the operator of a train is distracted.
  • Turns and curves. While a train derailment can occur for a number of different reasons, including a collision with another train or motor vehicle, many train collisions happen when a train is taking a turn/approaching a curve. This may happen because of a mechanical error, a problem with the tracks, or because the operator is operating the train at a speed that is unsafe for the curve. The good news is that derailments have been decreasing in frequency over time, and while derailments certainly have the potential to result in serious injuries and deaths, most are relatively harmless. (In 2014, there were 1,241 train derailments, but the majority of them did not cause deaths or injuries to anyone involved, according to an article in Vox.)

Have You Been Harmed in a Train Accident?

When a train accident or derailment occurs, the incident has the potential to forever change the lives of those involved, including injured and deceased individuals’ family members. At the law office of Pottroff & Karlin, LLC, we believe that those whose negligence caused a train accident should be held liable.

Working out of our Manhattan, Kansas office, we represent clients throughout the United States who are the victims of public railroad companies that have committed errors that have led to severe losses. If you or a loved one has been harmed in a train accident, you deserve to be compensated for the full extent of your economic and noneconomic losses. To schedule your free consultation with our train accident attorneys, please send us a message or call us directly. We are passionate about advocating for you.

Railroad News
November 29, 2023

California Pedestrian Killed by Amtrak Train on BNSF Tracks

November 27, 2023

Six Amtrak Passengers Injured and Derailment Ensues After Failure to Notify Amtrak Trains of Vehicle Stuck on the Tracks


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