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Personal Injury · Wrongful Death · Medical Malpractice

Who Is Liable in the Event of an Airplane Crash?

Over the past twenty years, air travel has become a common method of transportation for many Americans. It no longer is a privilege reserved for the wealthy, and most people have heard that flying is a much safer way to travel compared to riding in a car. There is, however, no way to entirely eliminate risk in an activity that has inherent risk built into it, and a perusal of the news over recent years shows crashes do happen, and people are injured and/or die. If you or a family member has the very unfortunate experience of an airplane accident, it is important to understand what the airline carriers’ or operators’ potential liability would be for injuries or death. A recent plane crash in Tampa that tragically claimed two lives was caused by a miscommunication between two pilots, according to a report issued by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the federal agency charged with investigating all plane-related accidents. The accident occurred when two small private planes almost collided in mid-air because neither pilot realized the other was taking off. The planes were leaving from an airport that has no control tower, requiring pilots to speak to each other about takeoff and landing. As more people become air travelers, it is important to understand who is responsible if you get hurt while flying.

Air Travel Regulation

Two federal agencies are in charge of regulating all air travel, commercial and private – the NTSB and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The NTSB investigates all plane accidents, and issues a report once an accident’s cause is determined. This report is crucial to any personal injury or wrongful death case, since it identifies whether the crash was caused by human or mechanical error or natural forces. The FAA is responsible for setting safety standards for pilots, flight operations and aircraft manufacturers, which are enforced through civil fines and criminal prosecution. If it is discovered a crew member, airline or aircraft manufacturer violated FAA regulations, this, like the NTSB report, could go a long way to proving liability in a personal injury case.

Liability

The most common types of cases filed in plane accidents include claims for negligence, products liability or Federal Tort Claims Act violations. Negligence claims would apply if the cause of the accident stemmed from things like pilot error, repair issues or unsafe items placed in cargo. The plaintiff would need to show that the defendant did not exercise a reasonable standard of care when operating or loading the aircraft. Products liability claims are used if there are issues with structure of the airplane, like part defects or design problems. These are strict liability cases, so it is not necessary to prove the manufacturer was at fault or negligent in the plaintiff’s injury. Finally, there are claims under the Federal Tort Claims Act. This law allows private parties to sue the federal government for torts committed by someone acting on behalf of the federal government. In the context of airplane accidents, they could be used against the FAA if, for example, an air traffic controller error caused a crash.

Talk to a Personal Injury Lawyer

Aviation accidents are highly complex events that involve many federal and state agencies and require experts to assist lawyers with establishing the basis of their arguments in court. The Miami law firm of Pita, Weber & Del Prado understands the complexity of these cases and will assemble the right team to help you recover for your injuries. Contact us to schedule a free consultation.

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