The Federal Aviation Administration or FAA claims that air travel is seen to increase in the next 20 years. Hence, air traffic will also increase and as a result are the probable risks that the passengers will meet due to aviation accident. Air traffic is basically a safe way of transportation but when the accidents happen, they usually result in fatalities. The smaller and less severe accidents that involve private aircraft occur frequently than we realize because many of these accidents are not reported in the media.
Causes of Plane Crashes
The aviation accident law comprises the major air carrier and general aviation accidents. General aviation refers to all non-commercial aircraft which includes small the planes, big business jets, charter flights, helicopters, pleasure crafts, and hang gliders. Below are list of common causes of major carrier and general aviation accidents:
- Pilot error
- Federal Aviation Administration or FAA violations of regulations
- Faulty equipment
- Negligence in the third party’s selection of a carrier
- Negligence of Flight Service Station employees or workers
- Negligence of Federal Air Traffic Controllers
- Structural or design problems
The NTS and the FAA
There are two federal agencies that monitor air travel and investigate each aviation accident, all commercial and private, in USA, namely the National Transportation Safety Board or NTSB and the Federal Aviation Administration or FAA. NTSB conducts investigation on each civil aircraft accident and recommends safety standards to avoid future accidents. FAA establishes safety standards for the conduct of the pilot, the flight operations, enforces FAA regulations through civil sanctions or criminal penalties.
Personal Injury Claims for Aviation Accidents
If you and your lawyer have decided to pursue legal claims after an aviation accident, the probable legally responsible parties can differ depending on the cause of the accident. The owner and the operator of the aircraft may be held responsible; the manufacturers or the maintenance suppliers may also be responsible in some circumstances; and even the federal government may be held responsible for the aircraft accident.
Aviation litigation is complicated and it entails many probable theories of liability under the state, federal, and international law. There are many probable defendants to select from, and several different courts where the trial may take place. The injured individual, also called as the “plaintiff,” must show and prove that the person liable, called as the “defendant,” was unable to meet the industry standard associated with the operation of the aircraft, engineering, or some regulatory concerns.
While the circumstances of every aviation accident shall always be different, they usually claim for negligence, product liability, or the combination of the two. Furthermore, since the air travel is regulated by two federal agencies, federal rules and regulations, will have some effects on the personal injury claims or the standards of owed to the victims of the aviation accident.
Negligence refers to the legal word for the failure to perform or not to do, something that a reasonable individual would do under the circumstances to protect others from the foreseeable risks of dangers. The pilots, major airlines, and the airline maintenance providers are those who are subjected to the claims for negligence when there is an aviation accident happens.
Another legal doctrine is called “product liability” which is the legal responsibility which is placed on the manufacturers and sellers of defective products. The product liability may reward recovery against the manufacturer or seller of the defective product, unless the plaintiff proves that it is the defective product that contributed to the aviation accident.
Liabilty: the Owner or the Operator
Aircraft owners and operators are held high standards in terms of “duty of care” for others. When it is proven that there is carelessness or recklessness, the owner will be held responsible for the damages experienced the injured parties, including passengers, the pilot, and those that are on the ground. Although the owner was not operating the aircraft during the accident, the owner may still be held responsible under the legal theory known as vicarious liability. The theory is the same as to the manner the employers may be legally liable for the actions of their employees and workers in some situations.
The commercial airlines are categorized under the legal classification of “common carrier” since they bring all their passengers who purchase airline tickets. The common air carriers are held to various strict standards compared to private carriers. FAA is the major federal agency that is in charge to regulate and monitor air carriers by setting and enforcing standardized regulations and operating procedures, and the internal standards of the carrier. There is a need to understand of the complicated FAA rules and regulations to succeed in bringing the aviation accident claim against a common carrier like commercial airline.
Liability of the Manufacturer
When the victim of an aviation accident can prove that there is a defect in the product which is the aircraft itself, or defect in a component part that caused his/her injuries, then the manufacturer of the aircraft can be held responsible under the legal theory which is known as “strict liability.” Take note that liability laws vary from every state.
Liability of the Owner/Operator and Manufacturer; a Comparative Fault
There are cases when both the pilot and the manufacturer may be held responsible for an aviation accident which causes a legal issue known as “comparative fault.” This means that the judge or the jury during the trial should determine the percentage of liability to every defendant. For instance, the pilot may be 35% liable for losing control of the aircraft, while manufacturer may be 65% responsible for the defective landing gear. There are only few states that ban recovery from the manufacturer when the negligence of the pilot is contributed to a crash. Most of the states apply comparative fault and divide the blame between the two defendants or parties.
Liability of the Federal Government
The main duty of the federal government is to control all the air traffic. FAA is fully liable for this huge responsibility. When the aviation accident entails a collision or other preventable navigation mistake, the key question is whether or not the FAA and air traffic controllers perform their job properly and correctly.
The common categories of recoverable damages in a personal injury claim from an aviation accident are as follows:
- The lost wages and lost income capacity
- Past and future medical expenses
- Loss of consortium or association (for married couples only)
- Emotional distress
- Punitive damages
Every jurisdiction will vary as to the kind of damages that can be recovered and the proof needed for every category. An experienced aviation lawyer will be able to assist you to select the best jurisdiction and prove your damages properly so that you will be fairly compensated for your injuries.
Obtaining Legal Assistance
Any legal claim that develops from an aviation accident needs a comprehensive knowledge and understanding of the aircraft functions and safety, the FAA regulation, and particular rules associated with the aviation litigation. When you sustained an injury or suffered the loss of a loved one due to an aviation accident, you can find and contact an experienced lawyer who knows and understands and has experience in aviation litigation lawsuits. The aviation litigation is complicated process and it entails a thorough analysis of the state, federal, and probably of international law. There are many issues involved that will affect the result of the aircraft litigation:
- The parties that may be classified as defendants
- Questions of venue
- Aviation engineering
- Industry standards as well as federal government rules and regulations
If you sustained an injury or if you have lost someone you loved due to an aircraft accident, it is recommended to contact an experienced lawyer who knows and understands these complicated legal procedures to safeguard your rights.