While safety technology has made plane crashes less common in recent times, aviation accidents do still occur. Most often, airplane accidents are caused due to human error although some aviation accidents do occur due to malfunctioning equipment. Unfortunately, most of these accidents result in catastrophic injuries or death.
In order to successfully handle a California airplane crash claim, one must have extensive knowledge of both state and federal aviation regulations. Because there are specific regulations to adhere to, when aviation accidents occur, several governmental agencies are involved in the investigation of airplane crashes. For these reasons, it’s important to seek help from an experienced California aviation accident attorney who is prepared to work with all the various sources of information.
If you or someone you love has been injured in an aviation accident or you’ve lost a loved one due to an airplane crash, it’s imperative that you seek legal counsel.
Causes of Aviation Accidents
Aviation accident law covers both major air carrier and general aviation accidents. General aviation includes all non-commercial aircraft including small airplanes, large corporate jets, charter flights, pleasure aircraft, helicopters and hang gliders. When an aviation accident does take place, it often has life-altering consequences.
Aviation accidents may be caused by a number of factors including:
Pilot Error – An aircraft pilot is responsible for safely transporting his/her passengers to their destination. Even though flying is one of the safest ways to travel, aircraft are piloted by humans who make mistakes. Unfortunately, an error made by a pilot can lead to catastrophic consequences wherein people are severely injured and killed. Pilot error is the cause for nearly half of all aviation accidents and for over two-thirds of all private aircraft accidents.
Pilot error is a decision, action, or inaction by a pilot of an aircraft that’s determined to be a cause or contributing factor in an accident or incident. A few of the most common examples of pilot error include:
- Using aircraft equipment incorrectly
- Making navigational errors
- Incorrectly communicating with air traffic control
- Errors made in the monitoring of speed, altitude and other flight parameters
- Failing to manage fuel levels properly
- Failing to follow set procedures in regards to safety checklists
While some of the these errors may be done unintentionally, a pilot can still be held liable if his or her actions were negligent or if he/she was in violation of government-imposed safety regulations.
Air Traffic Controller Negligence – The role of air traffic controllers is to monitor and control the flow of air traffic in and around airports. When an air traffic controller makes an error while planes are taking off, in flight or landing, the results can be catastrophic, wherein innocent victims are severely injured or killed. Some of the most commonly made mistakes by air traffic controllers include:
- Working while fatigued or while under the influence of drugs or alcohol which can result in controllers falling asleep on the job
- Allowing two or more planes to fly too closely to each other
- Directing too many aircraft to a runway
- Misinterpretation of radar
Defective Equipment – It only takes one piece of defective equipment to bring down an airplane. Aviation accidents caused by defective equipment can be due to errors in aircraft design, manufacturing or maintenance. If a plane accident occurs and it is found that faulty equipment played a role, the aircraft designer or manufacturer could be found at fault for the accident. A product liability lawsuit may be filed against the designer or manufacturer of airplane equipment if it is found that defective equipment was to blame for an aviation accident.
It also could be found that those responsible for the maintenance of the aircraft are liable for what happened. For instance, a plane accident caused by a fault in the engine could be caused by negligence on the part of the maintenance personnel who were put in charge of inspecting and maintaining the aircraft’s engine.
FAA Regulation Violations – Failure to adhere to FAA regulations and safety rules typically points to negligence on the part of the pilot, air traffic controller or other parties who were in violation of FAA rules and regulations. When an aviation accident takes place, investigators may and often do, find that someone was in violation of FAA rules and regulations. In this type of situation, the person or persons found in violation of FAA regulations can be held liable for any injuries, death or other damages suffered by the accident victims and their families.
Airplane Turbulence – The most common cause of injuries sustained while aircraft are flying is turbulence. An aircraft can encounter turbulence at any given time with the results being brief due to mild changes in altitude to extreme wherein the aircraft is tossed about violently. When turbulence is extreme, passengers can be thrust from their seats and tossed around the cabin wherein they suffer serious injuries.
When an airline accident victim is injured due to turbulence, he or she may be able to seek compensation from the airline or from its employees, depending upon what or who was found to be at fault. Even though commercial airlines do not guarantee the safety of their passengers, they are held responsible for negligence on the part of their employees. They also must do all they can within reason, to prevent their passengers from becoming injured while on their aircraft.
Negligence of Airport and Airline Ground Crews – Some aviation accidents are caused by negligence on the part of the ground crews in charge of directing planes in and out of airport terminal areas. For instance, an accident can happen on a runway if ground crews fail to clear the runway of obstructions, causing an aircraft to strike something like a stray baggage cart. This type of negligence can cause the aircraft to careen out of control which is an event that could end badly with passengers being injured.
The FAA and NTSB
Two federal agencies are in charge of regulating air travel and both investigate every aviation accident (both commercial and general) in the United States: The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). The FAA is responsible for setting safety standards for pilot conduct, flight operations and aircraft manufacturers. This agency enforces its regulations through civil or criminal penalties. NTSB is responsible for the investigation of every civil aircraft accident that occurs in the US. It also recommends safety standards designed to prevent future accidents.
Types of Aviation Accident Injuries
According to the Review of Aircraft Accident Data report of 2010 issued by NTSB, there were 1,500 aviation accidents in 2010, involving 1,520 US-registered aircraft. Approximately 18 percent (275) of those accidents were fatal, resulting in 470 deaths. General aviation accidents accounted for nearly 96 percent of total aviation accidents and about 97 percent of fatal accidents in 2010.
There are many types of injuries suffered by innocent victims of airplane accidents. Among the most common injuries sustained by these unfortunate events includes:
- Burns – When an aircraft veers off a runway or crashes, it’s common for a fire to erupt due to friction caused by the plane striking something and/or because of the extreme combustibility of airline fuel. Aircraft passengers and/or people on the ground near the accident site often suffer very severe burns. A severely burned patient must endure a tremendous amount of pain and may require extensive cosmetic surgery to address the disfigurement caused by burn scars.
- Traumatic Brain Injuries – Sadly, many survivors of airplane accidents are left with traumatic brain injuries which require extensive treatment and care. A traumatic head injured individual may never again be able to return to work nor live life as they did prior to the accident due to dramatic changes in mood, personality, decision-making skills and memory loss.
- Broken bones – It is common for aircraft accident survivors to suffer from multiple broken and crushed bones. When an aircraft suddenly loses altitude and begins a fast descent to the ground, the impact with the earth is often tremendous wherein those on board suffer very serious broken bones and other severe injuries.
- Spinal Cord Injuries – Many aviation accident victims suffer spinal cord injuries which affect mobility and feeling. When the spinal cord becomes damaged or completely severed, the victim can be partially or fully paralyzed as a result.
If you or someone you love has been injured in an aviation accident, you should waste no time seeking the assistance of a personal injury attorney. You must act swiftly to ensure that evidence and witness recollections are fresh and to make sure that a statute of limitations does not expire to void your right to pursue justice. It is never advisable to speak to an insurance representative from an airline as this person does not have your best interest in mind. While you may be offered what seems like a fair settlement amount in exchange for you dropping your case, it is possible that you’re eligible for far more. That’s why you should speak to an attorney as soon as possible so you can begin gathering information which will be used to build a strong case that ends favorably for you.