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Aviation Accidents

Posted by attorney Gerald Sterns

Although air travel is considered one of the safest forms of transportation, aviation accidents can have horrific consequences. Most victims rarely escape serious injury or death. Survivors of such airplane crashes often have emotional scars that can last a lifetime. If you have been injured in an aviation accident, or a loved one has been injured or killed, you should contact an aviation attorney as soon as possible. You may be entitled to compensation for medical expenses and possibly punitive damages if negligence is found on the part of the pilot, staff, or airline.

What Are The Causes of Aviation Accidents?

Private aircraft, including all non-commercial small planes, business jets, charter flights, and helicopters, represent the largest number of aviation accidents in the United States. These types of aircraft are particularly vulnerable to adverse weather conditions, pilot error, design defects, and maintenance problems. Commercial aircraft are also vulnerable, however crashes in these crafts are less common. Most aviation accidents, whether private or commercial aircraft, can be caused by any of the following factors:

  • Pilot error: a mistake, oversight, lapse of judgment, or failure to exercise due care by the pilot while the aircraft is in operation. Commercial pilots are held to a more stringent standard than private pilots because the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is responsible for regulation of common carriers and have imposed uniform standards. Private pilots are only held to a common negligence standard, which requires the use of due diligence and reasonable care.
  • Mechanical failure: can be caused by pilot error or misuse of equipment. It can also be caused by the airplane manufacturer’s defective design, a manufacturing defect, or the manufacturer’s failure to provide adequate warnings or instructions for the safe use of the aircraft.
  • Improper maintenance: Maintenance personnel may fail to detect or repair a problem, or fail to keep the aircraft properly maintained.
  • Air traffic controller error: can be caused by numerous factors, such as fatigue, failure to issue warnings, or errors in memory.
  • Runway hazards: such as ice and snow, rain, debris, obstacles, pavement defects, lighting defects, etc.

Aviation accidents include non-crash incidents as well. Injuries to passengers can also result from turbulence, falling baggage, slips and falls, and hard landings (when an aircraft impacts the ground or runway with a greater vertical speed and force than normal).

Who Is Liable For Injuries Caused In Aviation Accidents?

In an aviation accident, possible responsible parties could include the:

  • Pilot: the pilot can be held liable if his or her error (negligence) was directly responsible for the accident that caused the injuries. Criminal charges might also be filed if the pilot’s actions were determined to be reckless or careless;
  • Aircraft owner: the owner of the aircraft may be liable under a legal theory known as vicarious liability. The owner could also be liable if its maintenance crew failed to properly maintain the aircraft or if the flight crew’s negligence contributed to the accident.
  • Aircraft manufacturer: the manufacturer of the aircraft, or any of its components, may be liable if a defect in the aircraft or one of its parts caused the accident.
  • Federal government: air traffic controllers are agents of the federal government and are under the authority of the FAA, therefore the government could be sued for the negligence of its controllers.

What Kinds Of Damages Are Recoverable?

The typical types of damages that can be recovered in many personal injury or wrongful death claims filed in an aviation accident case include:

  • past and future medical expenses
  • lost wages and lost earning capacity
  • past and future pain and suffering
  • emotional distress
  • loss of consortium and association
  • funeral and burial expenses
  • lost benefits of a deceased victim, such as pension, insurance, 401K, etc.
  • punitive damages, depending upon the conduct of the defendant

Aviation Accident Attorney

An airplane crash can be one of the most devastating of accidents. If you or a loved one has been the victim of an aviation accident, whether it involved a commercial airline or a private plane, you should contact an experienced aviation attorney as soon as possible.

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