WHAT IS AN AVIATION ACCIDENT AND HOW OFTEN DO THEY OCCUR?
Aviation accidents are airplane accidents, be it private planes or commercial flights. Aviation accidents tend to be less common, but in case of an accident those who have been injured can file a personal injury claim and receive compensation in terms for monetary damages. People who have a right to bring a lawsuit include any person who was injured in the accident, the legal guardian or parent (if the injured was a minor), and spouse or heir (in case of wrongful death). Since airplane technology is highly complex, it is recommended that the injured party hire an aviation attorney who is knowledgeable about such cases.
WHO WILL INFORM MY FAMILY MEMBERS IF I HAVE BEEN INVOLVED IN AN AVIATION ACCIDENT?
Even though aviation accidents are far less common than auto accidents, when they do occur they have a higher chance of being fetal for those involved. When people are involved in commercial aviation accidents, the Aviation Disaster Family Assistance Act of 1996 requires the airline to assist passengers. A Family Assistance Center is established to ensure a safe meeting place for survivors and their family members. The Transportation Disaster Assistance Division works with air carriers to provide information and assist passengers and their family members. A phone line is established by the airline to make phone calls to family members; the airline is required to keep a record of boarded passengers, inform family members of deaths, and help family members locate the affected passenger.
WHAT CATEGORIES AVIATION ACCIDENT PERSONAL INJURY CLAIMS FALL UNDER?
Personal injury claims can fall under three main categories. The type of case depends on responsible parties and the level of injury (minor/major bodily injuries or death).
- Negligence: You may pursue a negligence case if the accident was caused as a result of an error. In a negligence lawsuit, it is likely that it could have been a pilot error, negligence of Flight Service Station employees, negligence of Federal Air Traffic Controllers, failure of aircraft maintenance, or other parties involved. In such a case, your lawyer will have to prove that the negligent act caused the accident, and that the pilot/employee/manufacturer was negligent by all means. The pilot/employee/manufacturer will be considered negligent if the mistake is one a reasonable pilot/employee/manufacturer would not make in the given situation.
- Products Liability: In products liability lawsuits, responsible parties may be the manufacturer of the aircraft, manufacturer of the defective part, engineer(s) who designed the aircraft, or other parties involved in the design or manufacturing. You might consider a products liability case if the accident was caused because of a defective part of the aircraft. The defect does not necessarily have to be in larger parts of the aircraft, a defect in any of the smaller parts can ultimately lead to a malfunction in any of the larger parts.
- Wrongful death: Wrongful death actions are brought upon by the surviving spouse or heir of the deceased. A wrongful death suit is either a negligence or products liability case. The only difference is that the case is brought on by the deceased’s loved ones. In wrongful death lawsuits, the plaintiff has to prove that the death was caused by accident which resulted from negligence or mechanical failure of some sort. An experienced attorney will be able to create a strong case for you. For example, if you lost a loved one in an aviation accident and the deceased did not have prominent bodily injuries, there is a possibility that death was a result of shock and fear.
HOW WILL THE ACCIDENT BE INVESTIGATED?
The Federal Aviation Administration sets safety standards for all commercial and private flights regarding flight operations, aircraft manufacturers, and pilot conduct. All air carriers, private plane owners, and manufacturers must comply by these standards. In case of an accident, the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the civil aircraft accident. The Federal Aviation Administration and National Safety Board regulate air travel for all commercial and private flights in the United States and are responsible for investigating the cause of an accident. In addition, your law firm will hire experts to further investigate the matter for negligence and/or product liability.
WHAT TYPE OF COMPENSATION CAN I RECEIVE?
Like other personal injury cases, you can receive compensation based on the injuries you suffered. In negligence and products liability cases, you can claim including but not limited to past and future medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages, or in extreme cases loss of earning capacity, disability and disfigurement, and punitive damages that resulted from the accident. In a wrongful death case, loved ones of the deceased can claim for funeral costs, emotional distress, loss of consortium/association, and loss of future earnings.