Every day, thousands of people around the world put their lives in the hands of a relatively small number of people and trust these select few to fly them to their destination. And every year, it seems that the images of plane crashes and accidents are burned into our minds—from the missing Malaysia Flight 370 to Captain “Sully” Sullenberger making an emergency landing on the Hudson River. However, the accident is not the end of the situation. Many people don’t realize that they can bring a personal injury case in the event of a plane crash or even an accident that occurs while on the plane. Here, then, is what you need to know about aviation accidents and personal injury cases.
Some basics on aviation accidents
If a plane crash or other type of aviation accident occurs, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) will investigate the incident. These two agencies are charged with cleaning up the crash site, collecting debris and evidence, and determine the cause of the accident. As such, they are first level of determination as to the cause of the crash and if criminal charges should be brought against the airline for the crash. Generally, the most common causes include:
- Pilot error;
- Equipment failure;
- Flaws in the structure (including design flaws);
- Failure to follow FAA regulations; and
- Negligence on the part of the airline employees or air traffic controllers on the ground.
Aviation related personal injury cases
If you are injured in a crash or lose a loved one as the result of a crash, then you may certainly be in line for a legal claim. However, there are a few things that you must realize about the case. First, each personal injury claim is unique and this goes almost double for injuries involving aviation accidents. In some cases, the airline and its pilot may be responsible for the case and could be held liable. In other instances, such as failure to maintain the plane, this may expand to include the ground crew that worked and serviced the airplane. If the crash was the result of a design defect, then it may be the manufacturer who’s held liable.
A crash that’s a result of the air traffic controller’s negligence may include both the controller and the airport and its management. Finally, if the government is shown to be negligent in inspecting the planes or in upholding the regulations that it sets, then the FAA or NTSB itself may be responsible. This type of litigation is further problematic because the trial may occur in one of several locations such as the point of departure for the flight, the city of the crash, and so on. Each locale may also institute its own “statute of limitations.” If you do not bring a lawsuit to court before this runs out, then you may not be able to file the suit at all. Because of this highly complicated situation, it is important to trust your case to an attorney who is familiar with such cases and who is ready to wade through the quagmire of legal work to help you reach the reimbursement that you deserve.
Just as there are a variety of factors in an aviation accident case, there are also a variety of recoverable damages. If you or a loved one is injured in an accident, you may be entitled to restitution for your medical expenses (including future expenses). This doesn’t mean if you are injured just in a crash. This can also include injuries that occur on the plane itself during the flight. You may also be entitled to lost wages and, in the event of death, lost future earnings. A third area includes pain and suffering (including emotional distress). Finally, a jury may award punitive damages to the plaintiff as a means of punishing the defendant for gross negligence. However, some states institute a cap on the total amount that can be paid; for this reason, you need to find an attorney who can get you the most to cover your expenses.
The law offices of Wolf & Pravato are here to help you. If you have been injured in a plane crash, or if you have lost a loved one as a result of a crash, then you may be entitled to restitution for your loss. We will be happy to consult with you on your case and explain your rights and the laws in your individual situation. We have experience in such litigation and can help you navigate this complicated situation.