Top 4 Reasons Trains Derail

Train derailments and railroad crossing accidents can be deadly. Considering the sheer size of a train, the people it is carrying and the speed at which it moves, a derailment can cause serious injuries to passengers, damage to property and in the worst cases, can be fatal.

Some train derailments can be traced to human fault. If you or a loved one has been injured or lost property as a result of the negligence of a train driver or train operator, consult a California train accident attorney as soon as possible.

If a train is carrying toxic cargo, a derailment can potentially destroy the surrounding environment, as was the case in 2008 in Louisiana when train carrying hydrochloric acid derailed and spilled nearly 10,000 gallons of the acid, forcing thousands of people to vacate their homes.  

Train Derailment Data

The Federal Railroad Administration reports that between 2010 and 2016, there were 9,240 train derailments across the country. In 2016 there were 1,149 derailments, 212 lower than in 2015.

In the same period in California, reports show there were 444 train derailments. In 2016, there were 59 train derailments in the state, 11 lower than in 2015.

Train derailments and train accidents in general can be fatal. In 2016, there were 787 fatalities recorded as a result of train accidents across the country with California contributing 156 deaths.

What Causes Trains to Derail?

Train derailments are the most common type of train accident in the United States. Whether occurring on the main tracks, the side tracks or the yard tracks, derailments are particularly dangerous because of the speed in which trains move. This makes the potential force on impact calamitous.

Research shows that track-related factors are the leading cause of train derailments. These factors include:

  • Broken rails and welds
  • Track geometry
  • Wide gauges
  • Buckled tracks
  • Track-train interaction
  • Joint bar defects

Of these, broken rails and weld cause more than 50% of track-related derailments.

Equipment failure in trains and cars, where they block tracks leading to derailments, are the second leading cause of train derailments. Equipment failure includes:

  • Train break failure
  • Locomotive bearing or wheel failure
  • Locomotive electric defects
  • Car bearing failure
  • Broken car wheels
  • Car axle and journal defects
  • Car suspension failure
  • Other general train and car defects

Human factors are the third leading cause of train derailments. These include:

  • Over speeding
  • Failure to obey display signals
  • Failure to communicate with railroad operators
  • Violation of switching or mainline rules
  • Incorrect setting of track switches
  • Driver’s physical condition
  • Vandalism
  • Obstruction
  • Unsecured cars on hills

Environmental factors also play a role in train derailments. These include high winds, avalanches, rockslides and flash floods.

Train derailments are traumatic events. If you suffered injury or lost a loved one in a train derailment because of someone’s negligence or failure to exercise due care, you are eligible for compensation. If you have been injured in a train accident, contact the California personal injury attorneys at J&Y Law today for a free consultation.