Denlea & Carton


March 12, 2024

What Causes Train Derailments?

Factors That Can Lead to Serious Railway Accidents

Train derailments occur at an alarming rate in the United States. With several high-profile derailments, such as the Norfolk Southern freight train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, residents and lawmakers have become increasingly concerned over their cause and are looking to find a solution. In this article, we explore the various factors that can lead to train derailments.

To learn more about the causes of trail derailments or to seek compensation after suffering injuries or losses due to a train accident, contact Denlea & Carton, LLP. Our White Plains personal injury lawyers can answer any questions or concerns you may have and create a strategy to help you secure the financial recovery you deserve. Call (914) 368-7168 to arrange a free consultation.

7 Factors That Can Lead to a Train Derailment

1. Human Error

Human error is the leading cause of train derailments. This can include mistakes made by the train operator, such as speeding, improper braking, or failing to adhere to railway signals. Errors made in the maintenance or operation of track switches can also lead to derailments. In other cases, miscommunication among railway staff, operators, and maintenance crews can cause an accident.

2. Track and Infrastructure Issues

The condition of the railway tracks and surrounding infrastructure plays a significant role in the safety of a railway system. Poorly maintained tracks, including worn-out rails, loose bolts, or broken ties, can result in derailments. Environmental factors such as floods, landslides, earthquakes, and extreme weather conditions can also damage tracks. To ensure the safety of the railway infrastructure, regular maintenance and repairs must be performed on time.

3. Mechanical Failure

Today’s trains are complex machines. Mechanical failures can cause train derailments despite regular maintenance of the cars, tracks, and infrastructure. Issues such as axle failures, bearing defects, and malfunctioning braking systems can cause the train to lose control and derail. The age of the train and its components can also be a factor, as older trains are at an increased risk of mechanical failure.

4. Operational Issues

Derailments are also caused by operational problems, such as excessive train weight or length. Loading too much cargo or improperly distributing it can lead to the train’s instability, making it more susceptible to derailment, especially on curves or uneven railways. The improper coupling of train cars can also lead to instability and accidents.

5. Signal and Communication Failure

Trains rely heavily on their signaling systems to navigate railways safely. A failure within these systems, whether due to technical problems or human error, can result in catastrophic harm. Trains might be led onto the wrong track, or two opposing trains could end up colliding head-on.

6. Regulatory Issues

Poor regulatory oversight and failure to comply with safety standards also cause train derailments. Regulatory issues include not enforcing speed limits, ignoring safety protocols, and failing to perform necessary track or infrastructure upgrades. 

7. Vandalism and Sabotage

While thought to be the least common cause, sabotage and vandalism of the railway can also cause train derailments. This can include deliberate damage to train tracks, signaling and communication equipment, or the train cars themselves. Vandalism and sabotage not only endanger the lives of passengers and crew but can also pose a significant risk to public safety.

Speak with a Personal Injury Lawyer in White Plains, New York

Train accidents can have devastating consequences. But, by understanding the many possible causes of train derailments, train operators, maintenance crews, railway companies, and regulatory agencies can take the necessary measures to minimize their occurrence. Regular maintenance and repair, adherence to safety protocols, and continuous training for railway staff are essential in preventing the harm caused by these accidents.

Did you suffer losses as a result of a train derailment? Our dedicated team of attorneys will fight hard to hold those responsible liable for their actions by securing maximum damages on your behalf. Contact Denlea & Carton, LLP today to take the first step toward financial recovery. Call (914) 368-7168 or reach out to us online to schedule a free consultation with one of our qualified personal injury lawyers in White Plains.


James R. Denlea

Jeffrey I. Carton

Robert J. Berg

Lindsey Leibowitz

Amber Wallace

John Leifert

Craig Cepler

Steven Schoenfeld

Stan Sharovskiy

Phil Smith

Martin McCann

Catherine Friesen

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