What To Know If Your Loved One Is Involved in an Aviation Crash
The aftermath of an aircraft mishap that causes injury or death can be critical. It is important to know how you can protect your loved ones claims and legal rights.
Protecting Your Rights and Your Loved One's RightsIn a perfect world with perfect machines and infallible humans, nobody will need to rely upon this advice. Unfortunately, aviation mishaps are not uncommon and are rarely fender benders. There are important things to know if you have a family member who has experienced an airplane crash.
Though this may sound self-serving, know that it is important to retain an aviation lawyer as soon as possible so that critical evidence is not lost and your rights are not impaired. When first notified, you will likely be in severe shock. Ask the FAA and/or first responders to secure personal items belonging to your loved ones and to provide you with their names and contact information so that you may speak with them later.
Resist the urge to travel to the scene or answer questions. First responders, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and/or National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) will quickly secure the scene and will likely prohibit your presence.
Investigators and/or the media may try to question you. While they may seem harmless, something you say may inadvertently invalidate insurance coverage, give rise to civil liability or even spark a criminal investigation. It is unfair to ask you to make a statement or even speculate about the cause of the crash while in shock. Refer such questions to your attorney.
Your attorney will also make efforts to view and photograph the crash site and airplane wreckage. They may also seek relevant evidence for later testing. Witnesses will be interviewed to secure their information before their memories begin to fade. Your lawyer will also request FAA air traffic audio, weather data, pilot records and other aircraft information from public databases and through Freedom of Information requests before making statements to the authorities.
If your family member owns the aircraft, the NTSB will want it secured and you may be contacted by a salvager seeking permission to transport and store the aircraft. Try to determine whether the aircraft was insured and, if so, contact the insurer to begin a claim and have it arrange for storage. Try to compile any ownership documents, repair orders and aircraft logbooks. Only provide those to your attorney.
If your loved one was a crewmember, look for any pilot logbooks, training materials, personal computers, PDAs and medical information, such as unused medications that may be relevant. Provide these to your attorney but nobody else.
Please appreciate that any aviation mishap is likely to generate insurance claims and litigation. The things you do immediately after a crash will have an impact. Protect yourself early by retaining a qualified aviation law attorney.
Who to Call?Barry Newman is a Florida licensed and Board Certified Aviation lawyer practicing with Spohrer & Dodd, P.L., a law firm specialized in handling aviation mishap injury and death cases in the United States and abroad. Only Board Certified aviation lawyers may claim such expertise and only 37 exist, out of the more than 90,000 Florida attorneys. (904)309-6500. www.sdlitigation.com.