Given the number of employees hired to care for planes and the level of attention dedicated to ensuring airline safety, airliners do not usually crash without negligence somewhere within the airliner’s control. Common causes of airline accidents include, but are not limited to: pilot error, traffic control tower error, design/manufacturing error, fuel problems, bad weather or faulty maintenance.
Since commercial airliners are complicated machines with many different actors maintaining them, there may be more than one cause of the accident.
What Kinds of Claims Can I Bring If An Airline Accident Occurs?
The types of possible claims will differ from case to case depending on the type of accident. The most likely claims will be:
- Negligence – someone was careless in taking care of the aircraft
- Pilot Malpractice – although the pilots themselves may not survive the accident, these cases can be brought against the airliners themselves to encourage additional training to guard against future accidents
- Product Liability – Design problems can be a cause of aircraft failure
- Wrongful Death – only if a family member was killed by the accident
What is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
A wrongful death suit is a lawsuit brought by a family member of the deceased victim against the person or company who caused the death. In the case of a wrongful death caused by a plane crash, the victim's family would bring suit against the airline.
Can I Bring a Wrongful Death Lawsuit for a Fatal Airplane Crash?
You can bring a wrongful death lawsuit in connection with a fatal airplane crash. Generally, however, these lawsuits can only be brought by immediate family members of the victim. Some states allow extended family members to bring a lawsuit as well. You must bring the suit before the statute of limitations has run. A person may also bring a Death on the High Seas Act lawsuit against the airline if the crash happened over open water and far away enough from American soil.
What Defenses Can the Airline Use?
To avoid liability, an airline may claim that the victim signed a waiver releasing the airline from liability. However, many states hold these waivers to be unenforceable, so you still may be able to sue.
Likewise, the airline may also claim that the accident occurred because of factors outside the airliner’s direct control. A sudden change in weather can prevent even an experienced pilot from reacting in time. The pilot had a sudden medical emergency which caused a loss of control. Defenses based on causation, however, can only be used if the airliner couldn’t foresee the cause before the plane took off.
Are All Airlines Sufficiently Insured?
Unlike the thousands of uninsured drivers on the road, commercial airlines must carry substantial insurance. As a consequence, airplane crash victims' families will almost never run into the problem of under-insured or uninsured at-fault parties.
Do I Need a Lawyer to Bring a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
If your loved one died due to an airline accident, you should speak to a personal injury lawyer immediately to learn more about preserving your rights and remedies. An experienced personal injury lawyer can explain the value of your case and help you navigate the complicated legal process.