Airplane accidents are rare, but when they happen, they can be fatal. If you are involved in an airplane accident, you deserve to be compensated by the at-fault party. Claiming compensation from the at-fault party can be challenging based on the nature of the party that you will be facing. That is why you should seek help from a personal injury attorney to be in a better position of successfully winning your compensation claim. Contact us today at San Diego Personal Injury Law Firm for credible legal services related to your compensation claim after an airplane accident.
Types of Airplane Accidents
Airplane or aviation accidents occur in different situations and involve different types of airplanes. The most common type of airplane accident involves commercial airlines, but such disasters can also affect private or military airplanes. This means that different types of planes and aircraft are involved in this type of crash. These types include:
- Commercial aircraft
- Private helicopter operations
- Sightseeing helicopter operations
- Private airplanes
- Helicopter herding
- Military cargo helicopters
- Military attack helicopters
- Air ambulance or Emergency medical services (EMS)
Let's have a closer look at the different types of airplane accidents.
General Aviation Accidents ( Private Planes)
General aviation accidents involve privately owned or operated aircraft. In most cases, these types of accidents result from pilot negligence, defective parts, or poor maintenance. Most of these factors result from negligence since there is less surveillance on private planes than commercial ones when it comes to safety compliance.
Commercial Air Carriers Accidents
Commercial air carriers have the highest share when it comes to airplane accidents. This type of accident is quite complicated since it carries many fatalities due to the large sizes of commercial planes. There is also a significant scramble to blame a particular party and media attention after such an accident, making it quite complicated for the claimant.
Chartered Flights or Helicopters Accidents
Chartered planes include small planes, jets, or helicopters that are commonly used for private functions. When a crash occurs on a chartered flight, the charter company should be held responsible for the damages incurred.
Military Plane Crashes
Military plane crashes occur in different ways. They can occur on battlefields and in other circumstances. Military Service Personnel are severely restricted in taking any legal actions against the government, but they can bring a lawsuit against the manufacturer if they are responsible for the accident.
Runaway accidents can happen to any type of aircraft. This kind of accident occurs due to several factors such as luggage fall, collision with construction equipment, and collision with vehicles on the runway. Such accidents are not quite fatal since they are easy to avoid and happen at low speed.
Causes of Airplane Accidents
Several factors can lead to an airplane accident. Most of these factors are either related to human negligence or natural factors. Here is a detailed view of the common causes of airplane accidents.
Equipment Malfunctioning or Failure
Defects in aircraft can be caused by manufacturing flaws, wear or tear, and design flaws. Although airplanes are regularly inspected before any flights, there are chances of incurring some mechanical failure if the inspection is not done effectively. That's why there is a lot of emphasis on the aircraft inspection before they are airborne.
There are several professionals involved in managing flights. This includes experts such as mechanics, air traffic controllers, and flight attendants. Every professional involved in flight management has a role that is essential in ensuring that the planes are safe for use. However, if any of the above-stated experts make an error during their execution, this might lead to an airplane accident.
Mid-air collisions are rare since there is a lot of advanced technology used to monitor airplanes while they are airborne. Some equipment, such as the TCAS collision avoidance system, can detect a potential collision and advise pilots to climb or dive in response. However, if such an equipment malfunctions, it can lead to a fatal airplane accident.
Pilots have the sole responsibility of ensuring the safe transportation of their passengers. However, if they fail to comply with the procedures needed for their operations, they can cause an airplane accident. For instance, if a pilot does not take heed of the instructions provided by a traffic controller, there is a possibility of causing an accident if the plane is airborne.
Over the years, there has been a significant advancement in weather prediction. Despite such capabilities, there are chances of failing to predict weather conditions, catching most pilots by surprise. Unpredictable weather such as freezing ice storms, thunderstorms, and lightning can easily affect small planes. Unpredictable weather can play a part in causing an accident if the forward-looking radar wind-shear detectors onboard are malfunctioning.
Errors from Air Traffic Controllers
Pilots heavily rely on information and support from air traffic control when they are in the air. These experts coordinate with several planes all at once. When air traffic controllers control several planes at once, they can be forced into errors resulting in an aviation accident that would possibly involve several airplanes.
Several other factors can lead to a plane crash, such as poor runway maintenance or sabotage. An aviation accident can be caused by a mere thing such as a bird when it collides on the windscreen or the engine. It can cause damages that may lead to a plane crash, although most such accidents are not severe.
Not every airplane crash occurs due to human negligence, mechanical failure, or unpredictable weather. Some accidents occur due to intentional causes such as sabotage or acts of terror. These scenarios are rare but are disturbing when they occur. They can lead to the death of all the passengers on board or fatal injuries to the survivors.
Types of Catastrophic Injuries Sustained in an Airplane Accident
Surviving in a plane crash might lead to severe catastrophic injuries. There are several types of catastrophic injuries that a plane accident survivor might incur. Here is a closer look at the common types of catastrophic injuries sustained in an airplane accident.
Traumatic Brain Injury
Traumatic brain injury is a severe type of brain injury that occurs due to trauma on the head. This kind of injury can lead to severe consequences such as paralysis, vision problem, difficulty in walking, memory loss, and uncontrolled movements. Other challenges that a patient might suffer from include difficulty keeping a personal and professional relationship, difficulty in recreational or leisure activities, or decreased ability to keep a job or go to school.
Spinal Cord Injuries
When an aircraft collides on another plane or hit the ground, passengers can incur spinal cord injuries. This kind of injury can affect the ability of the person to feel any physical sensation or move. If the victim experiences several spinal cord injuries, he or she might end up fully or partially paralyzed.
Severe Bone Fractures
Aviation accidents can also leave victims suffering from severe bone fractures. Factors such as the plane's altitude as it begins to descend can lead to this kind of injury. Severe bone fractures require a lot of time to heal or end up requiring the severely affected limb to be amputated.
Runaway accidents can cause fires due to the significant friction at play and the plane fuel’s combustibility. In that case, passengers onboard the airplane can incur severe burns, leaving them in extreme pain and enduring cosmetic surgery. Correcting a severe burn requires advanced medical intervention, which is quite expensive to afford.
Aviation disasters are horrifying and can cause post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other kinds of emotional trauma on the survivors. This kind of injury requires psychological treatment. Also, if a loved one dies in an aviation accident, the surviving family members might also suffer from emotional trauma due to the loss of companionship and consortium.
Loss of Use of Limb and Amputation
There are chances of having your limb amputated if you sustain severe bone fractures in an aviation accident. You can have your limb amputated during rescue or when you are severely infected after an injury. Amputation of your limb hinders you from the normal usage of your limb, which significantly affects your lifestyle. In most cases, a victim might require prosthetic aids to deal with the situation.
Loss of Hearing or Vision
An aviation accident survivor can end up losing his or her hearing or vision, directly or indirectly. The survivor can lose these abilities directly when his or her ears or eyes are directly hit during the accident. On the other hand, indirect loss of vision or hearing can be lost through spinal cord injuries.
End Organ Damage
An aviation accident survivor can also end up incurring end-organ damage. These kinds of injuries occur on organs fed by the circulatory system such as the kidney, heart, and lungs. The consequences of such accidents might be fatal and can even lead to the death of the survivor. For instance, a broken bone might puncture the lungs leading to severe breathing problems. Handling these injuries is quite expensive.
Types of Damages Incurred in an Airplane Accident
There are a lot of damages incurred after an airplane accident. These kinds of damages are incurred due to the extent of injuries sustained in the accident. Let's have a closer look at the damages incurred by airplane accident survivors.
Medical expenses take the lion share when it comes to compensatory damages after an aviation accident. These damages result from many expenses such as ambulance services, emergency medical services, doctor's consultation, and medication. Since you will probably incur catastrophic injuries after such an accident, you might need additional medical services for the rest of your life. This depends on the kind of injuries that you have sustained. For instance, loss of consciousness and paralysis might demand lifelong medical services on the victim.
Loss of Income
Loss of income can be defined in two ways. Firstly, loss of income is incurred during the period that a victim is hospitalized and recovering from the injuries sustained. Secondly, loss of income can be incurred when a victim does not maintain his or her optimal working capacity due to an injury. In both circumstances, you are entitled to compensation by the at-fault party for the income that you have lost.
Pain and Suffering
Pain and suffering is another form of damage that is significantly sought by victims of an aviation accident. It involves the emotional distress encountered due to the injuries sustained in the accident and the crash events. It is challenging to determine the cost of pain and suffering, but with a professional attorney on your side, you can easily manage to seek compensation.
Loss of Consortium
Loss of consortium is a legal term used to describe the loss of companionship after an injury. This can be sexually related or not. The loss of consortium is not filed by the victim but is filed by the person affected by the respective victim's inability to maintain a normal relationship. This includes the victim's spouse and other close family members.
Loss of Life Enjoyment
An airplane accident victim can also claim his or her loss of life enjoyment due to injuries sustained from the wreck. Loss of life enjoyment includes the victim's ability to participate in leisure activities such as vacations due to the injuries sustained in the plane accident. It also involves other normal activities that the victim cannot undertake due to the injuries.
Wrongful Death Claims
A wrongful death claim is a type of claim done by the loved ones of a deceased person after an accident. This kind of claim is considered to try and regain the losses incurred due to the demise of a victim in an aviation accident.
Only certain people are allowed to file a wrongful death lawsuit in California. These includes:
- The deceased person's surviving spouse
- The deceased person's domestic partner
- The deceased person's surviving children
- The deceased person's parent or sibling if there is no line of descent connected with the victim.
Wrongful death claims can also be filed by people who were financially dependent on the deceased person apart from the above-stated close relatives. These people include:
- Putative spouse
- An adopted child
When you are filing a wrongful death claim, you can manage to claim several types of damages. These damages are attributed to the losses that the estate of the deceased incurred due to the death of a loved one. These losses or damages are as follows:
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Lost income, including potential income that the deceased person would have reasonably have expected if he or she had survived
- Medical and hospital bills for the deceased person's illness and injuries
When the losses are attributed to the surviving family member, they can recover the following damages:
- Value of their household services
- Loss of anticipated financial support
- Loss of attention, moral support, affection, love, and guidance
How to Effectively Claim your Compensation after an Airplane Accident
An aviation accident survivor should follow a specific procedure when claiming compensation after an airplane accident. The compensation claim process can prove challenging based on the party that you intend to hold responsible for the accident. That's why it is recommendable to know who you should hold responsible for the accident to effectively file a compensation claim. The possible parties that can be held responsible are as follows:
The Aircraft Owner or Operator
Aircraft operators or owners have a significant obligation to ensure the safety of the passengers using their planes. Therefore, if you can prove that their recklessness or carelessness is the cause of the accident, then they will be held liable for the damages suffered in the airplane accident.
The airplane owner can still be held responsible for the accident even when they were not directly operating the aircraft. This kind of liability is considered under a legal theory referred to as vicarious liability. This theory is similar to a situation where an employer is legally liable for their employees' actions in particular circumstances.
Commercial airlines fall under a legal classification referred to as the common carrier since they hold themselves into the public as a responsible entity that offers passengers transportation. There are many stringent standards put in place on common carriers which they should consider during their operations. That's why it is recommendable to have an attorney who clearly understands these regulations to increase the chances of winning the case.
The airplane manufacturer can also be held liable for the victim of an aviation accident. This is possible if you can prove that the accident resulted from a defect on a component of the aircraft. When a product is involved in causing an accident, the strict liability law applies. Under this law, the judge will hold the manufacturer for the high-risk product that led to the accident rather than the person using the component.
In a strict liability claim against a manufacturer, there is no need to prove negligence that led to the accident. An airplane accident survivor can hold the product seller or manufacturer strictly liable if it was the cause of the injury. Some of the factors that associates manufacturers to the accident include:
- Design defect
- Marketing defect
- Manufacturer defect
In some cases, the pilot and manufacturer can be held liable for an aviation accident. This raises a legal issue referred to as comparative fault, meaning that the judge will determine the liability attributed to each defendant. For instance, if the manufacturer plays a 65% fault for defective landing gear and the pilot plays a 35% fault for losing control of the aircraft, both parties should take responsibility depending on the percentage of the fault that each has on the accident. This means, if the total amount needed to be compensated is $100,000, the pilot will compensate 35,000 to the victim while the manufacturer compensates $65,000.
Establish that you Suffered Damages Due to the Aviation Accident
Once you have established the at-fault party in your compensation claim, you should continue to establish that you suffered damages due to the aviation accident. This can be proven through different elements, as described below:
- Payment receipts for medical expenses including those that you might incur in the future due to the injuries
- Valid employer report and earning analysis for lost income and reduced earning capacity in the future
- Payment for physical and emotional suffering, including psychological treatment and physical therapy
If you are pursuing compensation through a wrongful death claim you may use the following elements to prove your damages:
- Payment receipts for the medical bills related to the treatment of the injuries
- Payment for the psychological or physical therapy for the loved one
- Payment records for the funeral expenses
- An expert witness analysis of the amount needed to be compensated due to the lost protection, care, assistance, and companionship
The Role of NTSB and FAA in Airplane Accident
The Federation Aviation Administration (FAA) and the National Transport Safety Board(NTSB) are two government agencies that play a significant role in investigating aviation accidents. The NTSB operates as a government investigation agency and usually determines the probable cause and makes recommendations regarding air transport safety.
On the other hand, the FAA is responsible for regulating aviation and operating the air traffic control system. When there is a violation of FAA regulations, there is always a contentious issue in aviation litigation.
Your attorney needs to take note of the investigation reports made by these two government agencies to effectively claim compensation from the at-fault party. At the same time, the attorney should conduct his or her investigation or analysis of the aviation accident to compare their results with the agencies'.
Find an Airplane Accident Attorney Near Me
An aviation accident claim can be complicated. There are several parties involved, such as the federal government, airlines, and big corporations, who have a strong defense team. That is why you should find a personal injury attorney with enough experience in airplane accident claims. At San Diego Personal Injury Law Firm, we are committed to offering credible and exceptional services to clients seeking compensation for airplane accidents and other related accidents. Contact us today at 619-478-4059 for a detailed review of your case and assistance in your personal injury claim process.