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How Do Trains Derail?

Train accidents can be catastrophic, potentially affecting the lives of countless individuals and causing considerable damage to the health, property, and well-being of those caught up in the disaster.

How common are train derailments, and how do trains derail? According to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), there were around three derailments every day in the US in 2022. Train accidents can happen for many reasons, such as lack of maintenance, faulty train parts, or poor weather. While most derailments are minor incidents, a catastrophic accident releasing hazardous chemicals can impact entire communities.

If you suffer from physical and emotional health effects due to the Ohio train derailment in February 2023, you may feel helpless and worried about your future. However, you don’t have to struggle alone. Morgan & Morgan has your back. Contact us now for a free consultation to determine whether you could file an Ohio train lawsuit and receive damages.

What Is a Train Derailment?

In a train derailment, one or more rail cars or locomotives come off the tracks while traveling. Derailments can happen for various reasons, such as excessive speed, track defects, or equipment failure. Train accidents can range in severity from minor incidents causing slight damage to severe disasters that result in extensive damage to life, property, and the environment.

When a train carries toxic or hazardous chemicals, such as the Ohio train that derailed in February 2023, residents in communities close to the disaster could suffer devastating short and long-term health effects. Moreover, depending on the chemicals released, the environment could be contaminated for generations.

Common Causes of Trains Derailing

The force of a derailment can cause train cars to overturn or collide with each other, leading to severe injuries and fatalities. How do trains derail in the first place? Derailments can happen for a variety of reasons, including the following:

Broken or damaged tracks: Train tracks are critical to the safe operation of trains, and any damage or wear can lead to derailments.

Overloaded or improperly loaded freight: Overloading trains or wrongly distributing cargo can cause them to tip over in bends or at high speed.

Faulty equipment: Mechanical issues with the train, such as brake failure, a worn part, or a malfunctioning engine, can cause a derailment.

High speed: The faster a train travels, the longer it takes to come to a complete stop, making accidents and derailments likely.

Human error: Train operator or maintenance crew mistakes can also contribute to derailments.

Unauthorized crossings: crossing a railroad when a train approaches can have catastrophic consequences for all involved and cause trains to derail.

Objects on tracks: Cars, downed trees, or untrimmed vegetation on train tracks can cause catastrophic derailments.

Consequences of Train Derailments on the Environment

A severe train derailment accident can cause catastrophic environmental effects, depending on the type of cargo being transported. Potential consequences of a major derailment on the environment can include the following:


A derailment resulting in spills of toxic chemicals can contaminate the surrounding area’s soil, waterways, and air. Such spills have the potential to impact human health, wildlife, and the ecosystem significantly.

Air Pollution

Hazardous substances and gases released during a derailment can cause severe air pollution, potentially leading to respiratory problems for humans and wildlife in the area.

Water Pollution

If a derailment occurs near waterways, spilled chemicals could contaminate the surface and groundwater, making it unsafe for human and animal consumption.

Soil Contamination

The release of hazardous chemicals during a derailment can contaminate the soil in the surrounding area, tainting crops and other vegetation.

Infrastructure damage

Derailments can destroy surrounding infrastructure, such as bridges, roads, and buildings, which can have negative economic and environmental consequences.

In the case of the Ohio derailment, which occurred in February 2023 and involved a train carrying hazardous chemicals, the consequences for residents and the environment have been significant. If you are affected, you could qualify for an Ohio train lawsuit and should speak to an attorney as soon as possible.

The Effects of Train Derailments on Human Health

Train accidents involving hazardous chemicals can have disastrous immediate and long-term consequences for human health.

Immediate Harm to Residents

Residents in nearby communities could be instantly harmed from exposure to toxic gasses and chemicals and suffer from the following:

  • Chemical burns
  • Respiratory problems
  • Skin irritation
  • Eye damage

Some chemicals can be corrosive or explosive, posing additional risks to individuals near the derailment site.

Potential Long-Term Health Damage

The long-term consequences of exposure to toxic chemicals, such as those released in the Ohio train accident in February 2023, can include the following:

  • Permanent DNA damage
  • Risk of developing cancer, such as leukemia and lung cancers
  • A compromised immune system
  • Organ damage

If your physical and emotional health was affected by the train derailment in February 2023, consider getting in touch with Morgan & Morgan, as you could qualify for compensation and file an Ohio train lawsuit.

How Did the East Palestine, Ohio Train Derail?

On February 3, 2023, at 9 p.m., a freight train with around 50 cars derailed near East Palestine, Ohio. While no one was injured in the derailment, several cars transporting toxic materials caught fire. One of the substances released in the train derailment, vinyl chloride, is a carcinogen per the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Around 1,500 residents were evacuated while authorities released vinyl chloride and other potentially harmful chemicals from train cars to avoid an explosion. The controlled release sent a large toxic plume into the environment, affecting the air, soil, and watercourses of the surrounding area.

Cause of the Derailment

According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the failure of a wheel bearing due to overheating most likely caused the derailment. However, it emerged that the train had broken down at least once before the devastating incident. Employees had expressed their concerns about the excessive length and weight of the train, which led to the previous breakdown.

The Environmental Impact

Hazardous chemicals spilled into the nearby Ohio River, contaminating four tributaries over 7.5 miles, causing at least one fish kill. Officials reassured residents that drinking water supplies are not affected but urged those with private wells to get their water tested. In the days after the derailment, residents complained of a pungent smell, with some experiencing runny eyes, sore throats, headaches, and other symptoms.

While it is still too early to assess the accident’s impact on the environment and human health, the contamination of soil and water could be a long-term hazard for the area.

What Is the Ohio Train Lawsuit?

Several East Palestine residents affected by the fire and chemical spill are now filing lawsuits against Norfolk Southern Railway, the company responsible for the train that derailed nearby. Plaintiffs (the individuals suing the company) claim they have lost income due to the mandatory evacuation and suffered injuries from exposure to toxic and cancer-causing chemicals.

If you are a resident of the East Palestine area and you or your loved ones experienced any respiratory problems or other illnesses due to the accident, you could qualify for an Ohio train lawsuit and receive compensation. Morgan & Morgan is here for you. When corporations put profits before safety, we can hold them accountable and help victims recover the compensation they deserve.

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  • Who Is Liable When Trains Derail?

    If you or someone you know has been a victim of a train derailment, you may be wondering who is responsible. Here are some examples of who could be liable for your damages when trains do derail:

    The Rail Company

    The rail company could be liable for injuries and property damage if they failed to ensure the safety of their trains. Negligent conduct can include:

    • Overloading trains
    • Failing to maintain tracks and rail cars properly
    • Failing to provide adequate safety measures for their trains

    The Train Operator

    The train operator could also be held responsible if they neglected the safe operation of the train, such as speeding, not properly following safety protocols, or failing to pay attention while operating the train.

    A Train Manufacturer

    If the train derailment was caused by a defective train or train part, the manufacturer of the malfunctioning part or equipment could be held liable.

    A Government Agency

    If a government agency responsible for overseeing the rail system’s safety was negligent in its duties, it could also be held accountable.

    The question “How do trains derail?” can be crucial for determining the responsible party, as there could be several defendants in a train derailment case. However, in the East Palestine accident, everything points to the railroad company Norfolk Southern Railway as the liable party, as the train was likely overloaded.

    If you suffered health consequences or property damage in the train derailment, consider contacting Morgan & Morgan for free legal advice, as you may qualify for an Ohio train lawsuit.

  • Which Damages Could Victims Recover with the Ohio Train Lawsuit?

    The risks of transporting toxic chemicals in trains are ever-present. However, those affected by the devastating environmental and health consequences of a train derailment near their homes could be entitled to various damages. Depending on the extent of your injuries and the circumstances of your case, you could recover:

    • Healthcare costs
    • Lost wages or lost business revenue
    • Expenses related to the mandatory evacuation of homes
    • Property damage
    • Pain and suffering
    • Loss of life quality
    • Emotional trauma due to the accident

    In a train derailment lawsuit, you could also receive punitive damages in addition to compensation if the railroad company acted grossly negligent.

  • How Can Morgan & Morgan Help Those Affected by Train Derailment?

    A tenacious and experienced Morgan & Morgan train accident lawyer can hold a railway company and other responsible parties accountable for your injuries and losses. If you or your loved ones are affected by the toxic chemical spill due to the East Palestine train derailment, we could help you in the following ways:

    • Assess your case to determine if you have a valid legal claim.
    • Investigate the accident to identify the derailment cause and the extent of your damages.
    • Gather evidence, such as photographs, witness statements, and documents, to support your case.
    • File a legal claim on your behalf against the railroad company and other responsible parties.
    • Negotiate with insurance companies to fight for fair compensation for your injuries and damages.
    • Powerfully represent you in court to fight for your rights and hold the responsible parties accountable.
    • Help you recover damages for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other losses.

    Morgan & Morgan knows that train derailments’ emotional, physical, and financial toll can be immense. Our attorneys are here to support you in every way. We can help you access adequate medical care, address your concerns, and advocate on your behalf, giving you a powerful voice during difficult times. Morgan & Morgan wants you to get maximum compensation for your ordeal, allowing you to forward with your life.

  • Your Health Is Irreplaceable – Get Help Today

    You are entitled to safe air and clean drinking water and should not have to pay for a train company’s mistakes. If you no longer feel safe in your home and have health issues and financial losses from the derailment, Morgan & Morgan is here for you. We could help you to fight back with an Ohio train lawsuit and get what you need to rebuild your life and recover your physical and emotional health.

    Morgan & Morgan has a track record of stepping in and helping victims get justice when powerful corporations cut corners and disregard the safety of individuals and communities. We have recovered more than $20 billion for our clients in the last three decades and could help you too.

    Hiring us is fast and free. Get started today and fill in our online form to determine your options in a free case review.

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