If you look at the statistics, it’s hard to argue that flying is the safest way to travel, but it’s also hard to argue the fact that when planes malfunction, the result is catastrophic loss of life, in most cases. With the recent Boeing air disasters, it’s hard not to ask yourself, “Is flying as safe as it once was?” Most of us would like to think that advances in technology can only mean flying on a commercial jet is safer than ever before, but is it really?
If you’ve been in an aviation accident and have lived to tell about it, you may be in the midst of a personal injury lawsuit, and if you have lost a loved one in an aviation accident, you may be involved in a wrongful death lawsuit against an airline and other liable parties. If you’re contemplating taking legal action against an airline, a manufacturer, or some other entity that harmed you or a loved one, you may be wondering what legal rights victims have after an aviation accident. The first step is to find an experienced aviation accident attorney in your area who has experience in complex aviation accident cases.
Fight for Your Rights
Victims of aviation accidents face many challenges while pursing their right to recover compensation for their losses after the plane accident. One of your legal rights after an aviation accident is to go after the parties responsible for your injuries or the loss of life you and your family suffered.
Legally responsible parties in aviation accidents may include the pilots, the airline involved, the owner of the aircraft, the manufacturer of the aircraft and its parts, the aircraft maintenance provider, the government (for possible negligence by air traffic controllers and weather services), and airport operators. Something else a skilled attorney may discover is that the facts of a particular aviation case may dictate investigation into the conduct of others. Was some other person or entity responsible for the accident that may not be obvious at the outset?
It’s important to emphasize that while the particulars of all aviation accidents may vary, when it comes to most plane accidents, the following people may bring legal action in the form of a lawsuit:
- The person injured in the plane accident
- The spouse of the person injured in the accident
- The legal guardian of a person injured in the accident
- The personal representative for the estate of a person killed in the accident
- The next of kin of a person killed in the accident
- People in what is referred to as the “zone of danger” who experience emotional harm due to the accident.
For accidents involving international flights, the Montreal Convention often will apply and the passenger’s travel itinerary becomes very important. It’s crucial to hire an aviation attorney with experience in domestic and international disasters if your loved one was killed while taking an international flight. The Montreal Convention “modified the Warsaw system by providing for unlimited liability, providing advance payments, providing the possibility of suing in the passenger’s principal place of residence, and requiring air carriers to maintain sufficient insurance.”
More Legal Rights in Aviation Accidents
After an air disaster, the federal government must provide assistance to the families of victims of the crash under the Aviation Disaster Family Assistance Act of 1996 The same law requires the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to designate a nonprofit entity to coordinate services for crash survivors and the families of the victims. The airline also has responsibilities under the Act, such as establishing a toll-free telephone line for victims’ families, informing families of the death of family members, helping families to travel to the accident location, giving them room and board, and listing all passengers on the flight and telling families before publicizing the list. These are the rights all plane crash accident victims are entitled to in the United States.
Damages in Aviation Accidents
While the damages will vary in each case and will depend on the laws applicable in the jurisdiction where the lawsuit is filed, generally, an injured person may be compensated for:
- Past and future medical expenses
- Past and future lost earnings
- Past and future pain and suffering
- Past and future disability
- Disfigurement that has resulted from the accident
In wrongful death aviation accident cases, the decedent’s estate and/or next of kin may be compensated for:
- The decedent’s loss of future earnings
- Medical expenses
- Funeral expenses
- Pain and suffering
Just as different states recognize different categories of damages, some states also have laws that limit the amount of money damages that can be recovered, which is known as a “cap.” A knowledgeable and experienced aviation accident attorney will be able to explain what types of damages may be recovered in your particular case, whether any damages caps apply, and the best strategy to maximize the value of your case.