Commercial planes operate under a body of laws known to apply to so-called “common carriers.” Because commercial airlines open themselves up to the public, they are bound by a higher duty than private planes and other non-public travel entities. According to the law, a common carrier is any business that engages in the transport of either people or cargo for compensation. With this in mind, commercial airlines, as well as buses and trains, are regulated by a combination of state and federal law. In general, because of their status as common carriers, commercial airlines are expected to exercise a higher duty of care in transporting passengers, and when they fail to exercise that duty of care, they are often held liable in court.
Whenever there is an airplane crash, the first step will be to uncover just what caused the accident. Because of the complex nature of planes and the many different elements that can cause a crash, it can be very difficult to uncover the single thing that brought the plane down. Evidence is often destroyed, so it can be tough to tell whether mechanical error, pilot error, design flaws, or even unforeseen weather conditions caused the crash. Once the various agencies complete their investigation of all available evidence, they will make a determination on the crash’s cause. From there, it is possible to determine whether there is a basis for a lawsuit.
Whenever a plane crash happens, there are likely to be many things on your mind before ever calling a lawyer. The truth, however, is that timing can be critical to the success of any potential lawsuit. It is important to obtain evidence that can lead to a successful suit, and those who call early tend to have the best chance. We recognize that you will be dealing with a tremendous number of difficult tasks in the wake of any plane crash. Most end in death, or at the very least, serious injury. If you or a loved one has been in a plane crash, Funk & Associates is here to help. Call our Austin personal injury law firm as quickly as possible after a crash and our investigative team will come to your aid.
For a list of accident and incident data from the most recent plane accidents, please visit the Federal Aviation Administration website.
How much compensation do you get if you’re in a commercial plane crash?
It depends. There is no set amount for how much compensation you can get in a plane crash. The range of damages you obtain will depend on a variety of factors including but not limited to, your injuries, medical bills, pain and suffering, impairment or disfigurement, lost wages and/or the degree of negligence that resulted in the incident occurring.
What are the biggest challenges in an aviation accident case?
It depends. No one case is like another case. Each case is unique and with that comes different facts and circumstances for every case. This means that in one case there may be a product liability issue or manufacturing defect that you need to explore, in others it may be an issue of a pilot under the influence. Every aviation case is challenging, but the specific challenges will vary from case to case.
How quickly after an airplane accident must I hire an aviation attorney?
You should hire an attorney as soon as possible. Many times the aviation company representatives are immediately investigating the circumstances surrounding a crash, building their case and their defense. It is absolutely vital that you hire an attorney who can advocate for you as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the harder it will be to make your case.
What roles do the NTSB or FAA play following an airplane crash, and how might that impact me?
The NTSB and FAA often conduct investigations following an aviation incident. The NTSB’s primary focus is trying to identify the cause behind any one incident. The FAA also serves this function but will also intercede when criminal activity is involved. These agencies independent investigations can sometimes establish a case for negligence, however, they can also make a case more difficult if they find there was no error on the part of the pilot or company and the incident was unavoidable.
Should airplane crash victims or their families discuss settlement with the airline or its insurance company?
No. It is never advisable for you to try and negotiate a settlement on your own behalf. These airlines and insurers have decades of experience in settlement negotiations and you will always be at a disadvantage. You should always seek out an experienced attorney who can advocate and negotiate for you.
Imagine I’m in a plane crash that takes off from one state, is scheduled to land in another, but instead crashes in a third. In which state would my lawsuit be filed?
It depends. Legally you can choose the venue you file a lawsuit in, which could include the origin or where the flight took off, the specific place where the incident occurred, the airlines headquarters, or potentially in federal court. An experienced attorney can investigate what venue is most advantageous and file your lawsuit in the venue with the highest probability of success.
How long does an aviation lawsuit take, and how much of my time will it consume?
Aviation lawsuits are very complicated and can take years to resolve. There is no set time frame on average, but from beginning to end if your case involved filing a lawsuit, you will be looking at several years to fully litigate your case.
My loved one was killed in a crash of a homebuilt (kit) aircraft. Does that effect my ability to bring a lawsuit?
It depends on what your relation is to your “loved one.” If you are an immediate family member, such as a spouse or child, you may bring a wrongful death lawsuit. Likewise, if you are the parent of the deceased victim, you may have standing to bring aa lawsuit. If the “loved one” is your close friend or a distant family member, you may not have standing under Texas Law to bring a lawsuit. As for the “homebuilt aircraft”; yes, those are treated as product cases, assuming they were put together correctly and depending on the facts and negligence there potentially could be a case.
Who can be held responsible for an aviation accident?
Many different entities or individuals can be help responsible for an aviation accident. Who bears fault will depend on the specific facts surrounding the specific case at issue. Sometimes an error can occur due to pilot error, in that case maybe the airline employee is at fault. Other times a piece of the plane could malfunction or not be properly maintained, that would be a products liability or negligence issue.
What sort of injuries are most common in plane crashes and other aviation accidents?
There are no common injuries in airplane crashes. Aviation accidents can be catastrophic resulting in hundreds of deaths. However, they can also be minimal depending on the nature of the incident. If the plane is on the ground and there is a minor issue, the injuries can be minor in nature. However, when a plane is in the air and something goes wrong, the results can be devastating.
What types of compensation might I be entitled to after an aircraft accident?
If you are injured as a result of an aviation accident due to someone else’s negligence, you may be entitled to a number of damages, including: past and future medical bills, pain and suffering, mental anguish, lost wages, lost earning capacity and/or permanent disfigurement or impairment.
What are the most common causes of an airplane accident?
The most common causes of airplane crashes involve pilot mistakes or errors and equipment malfunctions. Weather can also play a factor in airplane crashes.
What is a “statute of repose” in regards to an aviation accident?
A statute of repose can limit the ability to bring a lawsuit for product defects in various aviation parts, depending on how long it has been used. This means that if the part is older than a pre-determined number of years, it is exempt from a lawsuit if it fails and causes injury. For example, lets say an engine part on an aircraft that you are on fails and the plane crashes causing you injury. If the engine part that caused the crash on your aircraft is 20 years old and the state you file the lawsuit in has a statute of repose of 15 years. In that case, you are unable to claim a product defect due to the statute of repose. In addition, the general aviation revitalization act is a statute of repose that applies to aircrafts carrying fewer than 20 passengers and bars claims involving most parts over 18 years old. Consult us, as this requires extensive research and analysis.
How do injury laws differ between domestic flights and international flights?
If you are injured in a domestic flight, typically the NTSB or the FAA will investigate the occurrence that caused the injury and issue a report. Internationally this is not the case. Unfortunately, if you are injured in an international flight, depending on where the incident occurs, a local agency that does not have the resources the NTSB or FAA have may lead the investigation. This could impact all parts of the investigation. Hence, it is imperative to call Funk and Associates right away so we can gather all the information we need to run our own investigation.
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The submission of information to Funk & Associates (“The Firm”) or one of its attorneys does not create an attorney-client relationship, and the receipt of said information does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. This website presents general information which is not intended to be legal advice, nor should you consider it as such. Contacting Funk & Associates does not, and should not, prohibit you in any way from seeking legal advice regarding this or any other matter. This Firm makes no representations, material or implied, of any statute of limitations which may or may not exist.
If you or a loved one is in need of legal assistance, call Funk & Associates at 512-472-FUNK (3865) or toll free 1-888-472-FUNK (3865) or contact us online. The initial consultation is free of charge, and if we agree to handle your case, we will work on a contingency fee basis, which means we get paid for our services only if there is a monetary recovery of funds. In many cases, a lawsuit must be filed before an applicable expiration date, known as a statute of limitations. Please call right away to ensure that you do not waive your right to possible compensation.