Plane crashes and other aviation accidents are usually big news in the media, especially considering how serious and life-shattering they can be. However, most people don’t realize that only 20% of aviation incidents and accidents are actually fatal. Even when no one dies, the injuries from an airline accident can be serious and traumatic. Studies show that blunt force trauma is the most common injury, however, others can include traumatic brain injuries and internal bleeding.
Because these types of incidents are unique for several reasons, it’s important to understand how aviation accidents are handled from a legal perspective.
RESOURCE: AIRLINES AND YOUR RIGHTS
What causes airplane accidents?
As you might expect, pilot error is the leading cause of plane crashes, with some experts estimating it may cause up to 50% of crashes. However, there are several other things that can go wrong to cause an aviation accident and sometimes the true cause is a combination of several factors.
In addition to pilot error, other causes of aircraft accidents include:
- Improper maintenance of the plane
- Problems with fuel
- Defective equipment
- Emergency landings
- A design defect in the plane or its parts
- Error by air traffic controllers
- Other violations of federal regulations
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Can you sue if your plane crashes?
While the legalities of airplane accidents are more complex than other transportation accidents, yes, airline lawsuits are available to people who have been injured or their surviving family members if the crash is fatal.
When an aviation accident occurs, several federal laws will dictate what happens next. First, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) will conduct an investigation into the cause and what may have prevented the accident. The NTSB is a board that is separate from other federal agencies to ensure an independent investigation. Because the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) also sets standards for aviation operations, it will also conduct an investigation after an accident. Sometimes, depending on the circumstances, the FBI will even assist with these investigations or conduct its own. Additionally, private entities such as the airline itself or the families of victims, or foreign governments whose citizens were injured will also participate.
Aviation lawsuits usually take the form of negligence or product liability claims. Under the negligence theory, an airline is considered a common carrier under federal law because it will transport anyone who buys a ticket, so the airline is expected to take reasonable actions to keep passengers safe. Owners and operators of planes can also be liable for negligence that causes an accident. In contrast, under the product liability approach, the manufacturer of the plane or a specific part can be liable for defective design. This complex legal setting means that there can often be several entities who are liable, sometimes for a combination of negligence and product liability.
How do I sue an airline?
If you’ve been injured in an aviation accident or even worse, lost a loved one due to a fatal accident, it’s crucial to understand the legalities that will apply to your particular case. Because plane crashes usually involve complex issues of jurisdiction, or where a lawsuit can be filed, an aviation accident lawyer can be important to helping victims bring their claims in the most advantageous jurisdiction available. Furthermore, damage caps and other procedural rules can vary from place to place, making the question of where to file suit even more important.
It is important to understand that accidents that happen in the US will be handled differently than international ones. In an international aviation accident, treaties or other international laws may govern what victims can recover. There is a minimum $150,000 award per aviation death, but the survivors of US victims may have additional options if they understand and take advantage of their rights.
When a plane crash happens in the US, the Aviation Disaster Family Assistance Act governs and requires several actions to assist victims including:
- Requiring the NTSB to designate a nonprofit to coordinate services for victims such as transportation and mental health support.
- Airlines must notify families before making victims’ names public, and must set up a toll-free number for survivors to receive updates.
- Airlines are also required to assist survivors with travel, room, and board to come to the sight of the accident.
Have you suffered an injury or loss in an aviation accident?
If you were injured in an airplane accident or lost a loved one, contact us for a free case evaluation. We work on a contingency-fee basis. You may be eligible to file a claim for medical costs, emotional distress and further damages. Fill out our free case evaluation form to see if you are eligible for a claim. An experienced aviation accident attorney at Morris Bart will assist you in the evaluation process. Initial consultations are free. Click here to see more about our office locations throughout Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Arkansas. Call us at 1-800-537-8185 today.