Many passengers understandably experience a great deal of stress and anxiety when it comes to flying in planes. During the operation of an aircraft there are a number of electrical and mechanical systems that can potentially fail and/or malfunction. In addition, the skill of the pilot, the upkeep of the aircraft and weather conditions can all affect flight safety. The slightest error or negligent act can put the plane in danger of a crash and its occupants at risk of suffering serious or fatal injuries. When an airplane accident occurs, it is important that victims and their families receive the legal guidance and support they need in order to better understand their rights and options.
Commercial Versus Private Flights
Plane accidents that typically make headlines tend to involve large commercial aircrafts. These types of accidents can be devastating as they often cause multiple fatalities and catastrophic injuries. In many instances, when a large aircraft crashes, there are no survivors. The majority of plane accidents, however, involve much smaller aircrafts that are privately owned. Private plane accidents present a number of complications with regard to assigning liability. There is rarely a flight data recorder or “black box” on a private flight, which would help provide valuable insight into the possible causes in the event of a crash. Also, there are fewer regulations and certification procedures for private plane owners. The legal options available for the victims may differ based on the type of plane involved.
According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), U.S. civilian aviation accidents increased to 1,550 in the year 2011 from 1,500 the previous year. The number of aviation accident fatalities increased as well from 473 to 485.
Causes of Plane Accidents
According to recent accident reports, pilot error is the leading cause of fatal plane accidents. Between 2000 and 2010, 30 percent of fatal crashes resulted from general pilot errors, 19 percent involved pilot errors from weather-related issues and 5 percent involved mistakes made by pilots as a result of mechanical issues. Weather was the cause of 8 percent of all fatal crashes during that decade and 24 percent resulted from mechanical failures.
- Pilot error: A pilot may cause a crash by misreading gauges or data from other equipment, failing to prepare for dangerous weather conditions or failing to recognize mechanical errors.
- Mechanical failure: Equipment that is defectively designed, assembled or maintained may potentially fail. Improper inspection of the plane or outside factors such as getting hit by a bird can also lead to mechanical issues.
- Weather conditions: It is necessary to keep planes grounded when the weather conditions are dangerous. Airlines and pilots must avoid powerful storms and heavy winds. Lightning storms are particularly dangerous for aircraft.
- Sabotage: There were nine fatal plane accidents between 2000 and 2010 involving explosive devices, shoot downs and hijackings.
- Air traffic control errors: Negligent air traffic controllers may cause serious aviation accidents and runway incursions.
Potential Claims in Aviation Accidents
Depending on the cause of the crash, there are a number of different legal claims that victims or their families could make.
- Negligence: If the airplane accident was due to pilot error, victims may file a negligence claim. In the case of pilot error, for example, the victim will have to show that the pilot was not reasonably careful and that a competent pilot would have avoided the accident.
- Product liability: When a plane crash results from a mechanical malfunction, it may be possible to file a product liability claim against the product manufacturer. In order to have a successful claim, the victim will have to prove that a design or manufacturing defect in the aircraft directly resulted in the injuries.
- Federal tort claims act: In some cases, it is possible to file a claim against the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). In order to have a successful claim under the Federal tort claims act, the victim will have to show that the carelessness of an FAA employee caused the crash.
Assistance for Victims
There are legal resources available that are unique to aviation accidents. Under the Aviation Disaster Family Assistance Act, services that may be available for victims of airplane accidents include counseling services, memorial service arrangements and forensic services. Airlines must provide a free phone number for the families of the victims, the families must be informed of the crash before the list of passengers is released and room and board must be provided near the location of the accident. It is advisable for victims and their families to research their legal rights and options shortly after the accident.
Contacting an Experienced Lawyer
If you or a loved one has been hurt in a New York City airplane accident, the experienced New York personal injury attorneys at the Law Offices of Kenneth A. Wilhelm can help you better understand your legal rights and options. With more than four decades of experience, we work tirelessly to help obtain the best possible compensation for injured victims or those who have lost a loved one due to someone else’s negligence.
Please contact us TOLL FREE 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-800-WORK-4-YOU (1-800-967-5496). WE CAN EVEN COME TO YOU. There is no attorneys’ fee unless we recover money for you. We can also help with personal injury cases in New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, or Florida. If you have been seriously injured in any of the 50 U.S. states, please call us and we will try to help you with your case.
Other TOLL FREE phone numbers for us are:
1-800-RADIO-LAW, 1-888-WYPADEK, OR 1-800-LAS-LEYES
Please visit us at: http://www.WORK4YOULAW.com
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