Airplane Accidents and Your Legal Rights

You are exponentially more likely to get injured or killed in a car crash than an airplane crash. Even so, there are hundreds of aircraft-related injuries and fatalities every year in the US. If the unthinkable happens, what should you know when it comes to airplane accidents and your legal rights?

As personal injury lawyers, we wanted to share our thoughts on your legal rights after an airplane crash. Hopefully, you won’t ever need to read this blog post. But if you do, rest assured that we’re here and able to answer any questions you have.

What are Common Causes of Airplane Crashes?

Some of the most common causes of airplane crashes include:

  • Pilot Error: pilot fatigue, pilot negligence, improper “go/no go” decisions, pilot inexperience.
  • Air Traffic Control Error: improper takeoff clearance, communication errors, response delays.
  • Mechanical Error: engine failure, fuel tank explosion, pressurization failure.
  • Manufacturer Error: design flaw, assembly flaw.
  • Weather: ice, snow, heavy rain, fog.

According to a study published by the Federal Aviation Administration, human error is a factor in 80% of all airplane crashes. Also, usually a crash is a combination of several unfortunate events. For instance, a plane could have a mechanical failure and a pilot who responds by making the wrong emergency landing maneuver.

Who Could Be Responsible for an Airplane Accident?

Many parties have a vested interest in getting to the root cause of a crash. Airlines, victims, and manufacturers all want answers. Legally, it’s important to understand what went wrong and who made a mistake, because that party could be held financially responsible.

So, who could be liable? 

  • Airline
  • Airplane Owners
  • Insurance Company
  • Pilot or other Crew Members
  • Manufacturers
  • Mechanics

Given their complexity, airplane crash investigations may take significant time to complete. So, it’s not always a quick and easy answer.

Can Victims or their Families Recover Compensation?

Yes, in many cases airplane crash victims or their families can seek compensation. The serious nature of crash injuries and incidence of wrongful deaths tend to lead to lawsuits. As we’ll explain more fully in a bit, it’s best to work with a personal injury lawyer when pursuing compensation after an aviation accident.

Keep in mind that the process and laws may vary depending on where the crash occurred. For instance, if you were hurt on an international flight, a law known as the Montreal Convention 1999 (MC99) would come into play. A qualified lawyer will understand how to navigate the many governing laws that could apply in your situation.

How Should Victims Deal with the Airline or Insurance Company?

Airplane crash victims and their families should deal sparingly and cautiously with the airline or their insurance company following a crash. To minimize their losses, the airline might be quick to offer a settlement. Never accept an offer without first reviewing it with an experienced personal injury attorney!

We understand that it can be tempting to take the offer, particularly if you are swimming in medical bills, funeral expenses, and missed wages. However, once you’ve accepted an offer and cashed the check, you cannot seek additional compensation later.

What about Victims Injured Due to Turbulence?

Sometimes, airplane passengers are injured in other situations besides crashes, such as in extreme turbulence. If you’ve traveled by air, you’ve likely experienced this unsettling experience. On occasion, passengers, pilots, and crew members have been seriously hurt when the turbulence is extreme.

While it’s unfortunate, this is generally not grounds for a personal injury lawsuit. The exception is if you can prove that the airline failed to take reasonable measures to keep you safe. For instance:

  • If crew members failed to properly secure the overhead bins or other cargo.
  • If a pilot knowingly flew the plane through an extremely turbulent zone to save on time or fuel.

You can always call a personal injury lawyer who handles aviation cases to see if you can take legal action in a situation like this.

What Can a Personal Injury Lawyer Do for Crash Victims?

A personal injury lawyer can assist crash victims and their families in several ways:

  • Investigate what happened and who’s liable
  • Compile evidence
  • Consult with experts in the field
  • Navigate all applicable laws to your benefit
  • Pursue all potential sources of compensation in your case
  • Negotiate with the at-fault party and their representatives on your behalf
  • Advise on the fairness of any settlement offer
  • File a lawsuit if negotiations fail to proceed in your favor

Be assured that an airplane or helicopter crash is a complex legal situation with many parties involved. Again, we urge you to hire an injury lawyer who can aggressively represent your legal rights and fight for fair compensation.

Need to Talk to a Personal Injury Lawyer? We’re Here.

Our team of Washington State personal injury lawyers are always here to answer your questions about airplane accidents and your legal rights. We offer case reviews and only charge a fee if we’re able to win you a settlement. In other words, there’s no cost or risk to pick up the phone and reach out.

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