WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT AVIATION ACCIDENTS AND PROTECTING YOUR LEGAL RIGHTS
Aviation crashes result in some of the most devastating outcomes we see compared to other types of accidents. Generally, traveling by air is one of the safest ways to travel and airplane crashes are very rare. However, if something goes wrong, the number of lives lost can be extreme. This is because the size and speed of an airplane are immense, so the consequences tend to be more catastrophic. Because more and more people are using airplanes and other ways of flight to get to places, it is increasingly important to be informed about what you can do to be safe when you fly. In the unfortunate event that you or someone you know has been hurt or killed by an aviation accident, it is vital to secure legal assistance to protect your rights.
As a Houston-based personal injury law firm with an international reputation for aviation accident lawsuits, we receive a lot of questions about aviation accidents from friends, families, and our clients. We are honored to be a trusted source of information for aviation accidents and lawsuits for those who know us. We have represented numerous family members who have lost their loved ones due to aviation accidents all around the world. We understand the detrimental impact these accidents may have on your life. We are here to give you answers, to be your allies, and advocate for your best interests during this hardship.
Here, we provide answers to some of the most common questions we get about aviation accidents. We truly believe that when it comes to legal issues, knowledge is power. When you know more, you can make better decisions about what to do following an aviation accident.
WHAT IS CONSIDERED AN AVIATION ACCIDENT?
Any accident involving a mode of transport or vehicle that flies in the air is considered an aviation accident. Aircraft can be small or commercial sized. Some aircrafts seen in aviation accidents include helicopters, gliders, small and commercial airplanes, and drones.
HOW COMMON ARE AVIATION ACCIDENTS?
General aviation accidents with smaller planes are much more common than accidents involving larger commercial planes. This is because commercial planes usually have more experienced pilots. The amount of deaths caused by larger commercial planes has been decreasing over time. According to the Federal Aviation Agency (FAA), in 2017, 347 people died from 209 general aviation accidents. Commercial aviation in the U.S. has had one fatal incident since 2013. Recent commercial airplane accidents occurred internationally outside of the U.S.
WHAT CAUSES AVIATION ACCIDENTS?
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigates all civil aviation accidents in the U.S. They have an extensive database with information on aviation crashes. On rare occasions, the FBI or Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) may also investigate an aviation accident. Some of the most common causes of aviation accidents include:
- Pilot error: This accounts for about half of all plane crashes. One type of error can be a misreading of instructions, which may lead to a crash.
- Mechanical defects: There are many parts that go into the making of an aircraft. If any of these parts fail, the aircraft can risk having an accident.
- Weather issues: Some types of harsh weather conditions can compromise the pilot’s driving ability. An example of these conditions is heavy thunderstorms and fog which makes it harder for pilots to see what is ahead of them.
- Air traffic controller error: Pilots communicate with air traffic controllers during their flights and rely on them for direction and other important aspects. An error by an air traffic controller can have disastrous outcomes.
- Improper maintenance: Planes undergo routine check-ups to ensure the plane is in good shape for flight. If there was an issue with the plane and it was still considered safe, the plane risks having an accident.
- FAA regulation violations: The FAA has a set number of regulations that must be maintained or else violators may be subject to fines. An example of an FAA violation is a pilot using the wrong runway.
HOW CAN I KEEP MYSELF SAFE WHEN I TRAVEL BY AIR?
Traveling by air means relying on the pilot, air carriers, and others to ensure your safety. However, there are still some measures you can take to help keep yourself safe during your time in the air. The thought of being involved in an air accident can be daunting, but keep in
mind over 90% of air accident victims survive. Some air crashes may have some chance of survival, knowing crucial information can help save your life.
Some tips on how to stay safe traveling by air include:
- Always listen to any instructors giving safety directions at the beginning of your flight. These instructions give you step-by-step directions with key information such as where emergency exits are located on the plane. This information is vital to know in case of an emergency of heavy turbulence.
- Read the safety card if one is available to you. Safety cards are usually in the backseat pockets of commercial planes and provide safety tips that can help during an emergency.
- Most air accidents occur during the take-off or landing of a plane. It is important for you to remain alert and aware during these times.
- Always wear your seatbelt during take-off and landing as well as any time there is turbulence or when the seatbelt sign is on. Make sure your seatbelt is fastened securely whenever you have it on.
- Develop a plan about what you will do in case of an emergency. Learn where the nearest emergency exit is from you and be prepared to act calmly in case anything happens.
- If oxygen masks drop, put them on immediately before assisting anyone else. You risk passing out without having an oxygen mask on during an emergency. Only after you have your oxygen mask on can you assist others.
It is always unfortunate whenever accidents occur. We want everyone to do all they can to save themselves during such a catastrophe and stay protected during their travels.
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO AFTER BEING IN AN AVIATION ACCIDENT?
Being in an aviation accident can be an extremely stressful and traumatic experience and it is something we hope no one goes through. As your body deals with the shock and trauma, it can be hard to think clearly about what to do next. Yet, what you do next matters for your health and financial well-being. We recommend taking the following steps after being in an aviation accident:
LISTEN TO CREW MEMBERS
If the aircraft you’re on has a crew, they will be trained on how to respond to emergencies. Make sure you listen to their directions and follow their instructions. If the crew is disoriented or unable to help, do not wait on them. Find a way to get out of the aircraft as fast as possible if you are able to do so.
GET OUT OF THE AIRCRAFT
The longer you stay in an aircraft after an accident, the higher the chances of you getting harmed. Thus, it is essential to find the nearest exit to you and get out of the aircraft. Do not spend time looking for your luggage. When exiting the plane, stay low in order to avoid inhaling any harsh fumes or smoke. Once you are out, stay at least 500 feet away from the plane just in case the plane erupts or explodes.
ASSESS YOUR INJURIES
Injuries after aviation accidents tend to be more life-threatening, thus it is important to seek medical help as soon as possible once you are out of the plane. Try to control any bleeding occurring from your wounds. At the scene, medical providers will give you a preliminary assessment. Stay in your area so rescuers and medical aid can find you. Sometimes it takes a medical professional to identify signs of a serious medical issue, especially because you could be in shock after the accident. Some underlying injuries not initially seen risk becoming increasingly fatal over time. They may order you to go to the emergency room immediately by ambulance. Make sure you go to the emergency room in a fast and secure way to get medical aide quickly. After you have access to medical help, tend to any immediate injuries, and have a thorough check-up to examine for any hidden injuries.
CONTACT AN ATTORNEY
Aviation accidents are often complex in terms of finding out who is responsible for the accident and holding them accountable. Airlines and other big companies take advantage of that and try to give victims settlements much lower than they deserve. Individuals representing the interests of the aircraft company or airlines may attempt to contact you to receive information. Being polite and giving them basic information such as your name is not harmful but do not give them too much detailed information. This is because other companies can try to use your words against you in order to avoid being held accountable for all the damages they caused. For example, you may not know you have an underlying injury caused by the accident at the time they call. If you say you feel fine and the underlying injury later becomes prominent, they may try to claim the injury was not caused by the accident.
In order to avoid situations like these, you can tell them that you will give a written statement once you have gathered your information. Waiting and providing a written statement gives you time to gather your thoughts, investigate the accident, evaluate your injuries, and obtain an attorney. You are not required to hire an attorney if you are in an aviation accident, but, as we’ll talk about next, it is often recommended especially if your injuries and losses are severe. At a minimum, you should meet with one or more attorneys to learn about how they could help you before deciding whether to hire one.
SHOULD YOU HIRE AN AVIATION ATTORNEY?
Aviation accidents can result in extremely detrimental losses and damages. After you or your loved one experiences an aviation accident, they may feel traumatized, anxious, and worried. Medical costs and other losses may result in high costs and can cause you financial strain. An experienced attorney will help find resolutions to those issues that arise.
Aviation companies are known not to play fair, therefore having a team of experienced lawyers on your side will help you have the best outcome. After going through such a distressing and traumatic event, a trusted lawyer will ease the process of progressing through a legal battle so you would not have to stress any more than you already have. Hiring an attorney will help you by advocating for your best interests and holding aviation companies accountable. The following are some of the key reasons to hire a personal injury attorney to represent you after an aviation accident:
TRUSTED ADVICE TO HELP YOU MAKE DECISIONS
Using an attorney will help you better understand your case and your options, which will help you make better decisions. For example, an attorney can:
- Explain the applicable aviation accident law to you, so you understand your rights and obligations.
- Help you decide whether to accept a claim settlement because they can tell you whether the amount offered is fair.
- Help you decide whether you need to file a lawsuit based on their experience with other aviation accident cases.
- Give you a general assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of your case to help you decide whether to go to trial.
NO UPFRONT COSTS
When you think of attorneys, you probably think of lots of money coming out of your pocket. In some cases, such as divorces, that is certainly the case. But aviation accident cases are different. Most aviation accident attorneys, including our law firm, Husain Law + Associates, P.C., represent clients in aviation accident cases on a contingency fee basis.
In a contingency fee case, the client does not pay any legal fees upfront. If and when the case resolves in the client’s favor through settlement or lawsuit, the law firm that represented the client gets paid out of those proceeds. If the case is unsuccessful, the client does not owe any attorney fees. These types of arrangements allow clients to pursue their legal remedies when they otherwise would not be able to afford to.
ATTORNEYS ARE FAMILIAR WITH AVIATION LAWS
A good attorney will use their expansive knowledge of aviation laws that may be relevant to your claim to help navigate your case. They will have a thorough knowledge of applicable rules and regulations established by The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Both entities play roles in setting a certain standard to maintain safety. The FAA establishes safety standards for flight operations, pilot conduct, and more. Violations of their rules can result in criminal or civil penalties. The NTSB investigates all civil aircraft accidents and recommends safety standards to avoid future accidents.
Pilots and other important members of a crew are required to comply with FAA rules and regulations. Anyone of them violating these laws may be held accountable for their actions. Some of the set FAA regulations include:
- Altitude Deviations: This occurs when the pilot flies the plane above or below the assigned altitude by more than 300 feet. This can occur due to miscommunication between controllers and pilots.
- Airspace Violations: These include a number of violations, but an example of one is a pilot flying into an area with a Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR). These violations can be very serious.
- Insufficient Fuel Reserve: When an aircraft runs out of fuel, this can mean there was improper preflight planning. The results of these regulations can be deadly.
- Defective Component: Other companies or entities may be fined or prosecuted if vital equipment is defective. An example of a malfunction resulting in an FAA fine can be seen here.
Our law firm is equipped with attorneys familiar with major laws that govern plane accidents. These include Article 19 of the Montreal Convention and the Warsaw Convention, which applies to countries not ratified by the Montreal Convention. The Montreal Convention allows cases to bring suit in the United States regardless of where the accident occurred. The Warsaw convention regulates liability in cases of international travel.
AVIATION INSURANCE COMPANIES ARE IN IT FOR THEMSELVES
Aviation companies have insurers who are skilled in representing their best interests after disasters such as air accidents. They know that many people are not aware of their rights and take advantage of that. Many victims or families are offered settlements. Our attorneys have extensive experience with settlement offers and can help you understand what you deserve and can offer advice advocating for your best interests. If an offer is unreasonably low, your attorney will likely advise you not to accept it. They will work to get you an offer that will fully compensate you and can tell you who to hold accountable for damages and losses caused by the accident.
OTHER PARTIES MIGHT DENY LIABILITY
Aviation accidents are usually complex, and a good lawyer will have plenty of knowledge and experience to help get answers to questions like which party to hold responsible for the damages and losses of the accident. Determining who is liable in a case can involve complex legal and factual issues involving investigating the cause of the accident. Many aviation companies will try to lessen their accountability for the accident, a good attorney will help ensure they are held accountable for the full scope of the accident.
DETERMINING LIABILITY IN AVIATION ACCIDENTS
There are many parties involved with a single plane or aircraft. There are many places a mistake or negligent behavior can occur to later cause an accident. Thus, it is important to have a good attorney on your side who has knowledge about the workings of the aviation industry. At Husain Law + Associates, P.C., we have a team of attorneys and experts who know the commercial aviation industry and its manufacturers and component manufacturers, which allows us to quickly identify liable parties and potential defendants.
Parties that can be defendants in aviation accident claims include:
- The Pilot: If the pilot is found to be acting negligently or be the cause of the accident, they can be found liable. This is considered an operator liability.
- Aircraft Manufacturer: When manufacturers cut corners, ignore warnings about their planes not being safe or sell unsafe planes, they may be found liable for the accident. This is considered manufacturer liability.
- Maintenance or Repair Facilities: People who work on repairing or maintaining aircraft are responsible for making sure the plane is safe. If they claim the plane is safe and it is later discovered it was not safe enough to be cleared from maintenance, they may be held liable.
MEDICAL COST MANAGEMENT
If you are injured in an aviation accident, you will have medical bills from the care and treatment immediately after and on an ongoing basis until you reach your maximum medical recovery. An experienced aviation attorney can help prevent medical bills from causing your financial setback or ruining your credit in a few ways. They can help you sort through what is often a tangled web to figure out who is responsible for the payments.
In your personal injury claim, you may be compensated for medical expenses from injuries caused by the accident. You may also be compensated for any earnings lost due to the accident, pain, and suffering, mental anguish, or more depending on your case.
In wrongful death cases, the decedent’s estate or close relative may be compensated for the decedent’s funeral expenses, medical expenses, pain, and suffering, or more depending on the case.
Attorneys can then help negotiate with medical providers to hold off on collection efforts until your lawsuit is settled, and possibly get bill amounts reduced so that less money comes out of your settlement payment.
FINDING THE BEST AVIATION ATTORNEY FOR YOUR CASE
Hiring an attorney due to an aviation accident is not something many people are ever prepared to do. It can be a daunting experience, especially if you are still recovering from the trauma and stress of the accident. Personal injury attorneys are focused on accidents that cause injuries, such as plane accidents. If you don’t know any personal injury attorneys, you may not know where to start. Where do you find attorneys? How do you find good attorneys? To find the right Texas international aviation attorney for your case, start by researching potential attorneys, meeting with your top candidates, and then making your decision.
Start your attorney search by gathering a few names of potential attorneys. You can ask friends and family, search Google, or contact the local bar association for ideas. Look for a reputable attorney or law firm that focuses specifically on aviation accidents as one of their
practice areas, like Husain Law + Associates, P.C., a law firm founded by a Top 10 National Aviation Trial Attorney in the State of Texas with state and federal level experience who leads a team comprised of lawyers whose specialties include aviation accidents. Even the best business law attorney is not going to be a good pick to represent you in an aviation crash case.
Once you have found one or more law firms that you are interested in, schedule a consultation meeting with them. Reading about attorneys and law firms will only tell you so much. We recommend that you always meet with attorneys before hiring them for your personal injury case. Good attorneys understand this and will be happy to meet and discuss your case with you.
You can learn more from in-person interaction than paper. Some questions you may want to ask are:
- Do you or your firm have experience in going to trial when needed?
- Will you be personally handling my case?
- What is your firm’s experience in handling these types of aviation accident cases?
- Can you explain the process of filing my case and how we will work together?
- If the case does not succeed, will I have to pay any fees or costs?
Being involved in an aviation accident can cause intense emotional trauma. You may feel defeated, exhausted, and overwhelmed. A trusted lawyer with integrity and experience knows how to deal with big aviation companies. They will work towards getting you answers and helping you manage the aftermath of the accident. You will be working with them closely for a while and sharing confidential information with them. Further, their capabilities will impact the outcome of your case.
HOW LONG CAN I WAIT BEFORE TAKING LEGAL ACTION AFTER AN AVIATION ACCIDENT?
In most aviation accident cases, there is a two-year statute of limitations. Courts follow these statutes closely and rarely hear cases if the incident goes over the two years allowed by the statute. Therefore, if you decide to hire an attorney to file a claim, you must do so in a timely manner to avoid going over the permitted time.
WHICH COURT HAS JURISDICTION OVER MY LAWSUIT?
Jurisdiction refers to the court which has proper authority to hear your case. In aviation accidents, it can be difficult to determine which court has appropriate jurisdiction for your case. An experienced attorney will be able to help you determine those answers. Many aviation accidents involve multiple jurisdictions, so it is helpful to find an attorney licensed in multiple states with experience working with the federal court system.
WILL I HAVE TO GO ON TRIAL?
Most of these cases are settled out of court. Attorneys strive to negotiate with the other parties involved in the claim in order to reach an agreement that compensates you fairly. In the case where the other parties are not willing to negotiate or admit fault, your attorney may represent you in the court of law to advocate for your best interest. This may cause you to testify in court. We know being put on trial can be a nerve-wracking situation, so your attorney will try to make the process as comfortable and easy as possible for you.
IF I RECEIVE A SETTLEMENT OFFER FROM THE AVIATION COMPANY, SHOULD I ACCEPT IT?
Many aviation insurance companies offer quick settlements to avoid large payouts. This is because aviation companies and aviation repairs are so high cost to maintain, aviation companies are usually incentivized to offer you the lowest payout. These payouts seem enticing to a vulnerable person facing unprecedented costs such as medical bills. These payouts come even quicker if the aviation company knows there has been a major form of negligent behavior or other compromising factors on their end.
Although it might be tempting to take the settlement offer, it is important to consider the possibility that your claim may be worth much more than what the insurance company is offering you. In the unfortunate case of wrongful death, you may be entitled to a lot more compensation than what the aviation company is offering the decedent’s family and estate. In order to avoid losing the compensation you deserve, you can speak to an experienced attorney who is familiar with these settlements so they can give you the best advice.
TYPES OF AVIATION ACCIDENTS
An aviation accident covers any injury or death that happens from the time you board a plane to the moment you disembark. This means that you are liable for compensation if you trip on the aisle while walking to your seat or if the plane crashes, causing injuries.
All types of aviation accidents can cause life-altering or fatal injuries. Generally, they can be grouped into the following five categories:
- Mid-air accidents
- Ground accidents
- Taxiing accidents
- Landing accidents
JURISDICTION PROBLEMS IN AVIATION ACCIDENTS
Aviation accidents often have a connection to more than one state. For instance, a plane that takes off in California could crash in Texas. A plane that took off in Texas could also result in injuries out of state. This can raise a question of the appropriate jurisdiction to sue for damages.
You cannot file a lawsuit in an area or country with no connection to the accident or your injuries. However, you can bring a legal claim in specific areas for domestic and international plane accidents. An aviation attorney can evaluate your case and advise of the appropriate jurisdiction.
HOW LONG DOES AN AVIATION CASE TAKE?
An aviation accident case will often involve multiple investigating organizations. These include the airline, the plane manufacturer, and the National Transportation Safety Board. Due to this and other factors, an aviation case can be time-consuming. Your attorney can better advise you on what to expect.
THE STATUTE OF REPOSE
The statute of repose places a time limit on manufacturer liability based on the age of a plane. Simply put, the manufacturer ceases to be liable for damages after a certain amount of time, even if the plane’s faultiness caused the accident.
WHAT ARE THE MOST COMMON TYPES OF AVIATION ACCIDENT INJURIES?
Aviation accidents are known to cause debilitating injuries that may impact a person for the rest of their life. The worst-case scenario for an aviation accident is wrongful death claims, however, there are numerous amount of other traumatic injuries that are commonly caused by aviation accidents.
Because these accidents are so traumatic, you should assess your physical and mental well-being immediately after the accident and continue to do so in the following weeks. Aviation accidents are highly likely to cause more severe physical damage to you compared to other accidents, so it is extremely important for you to visit a doctor as soon as possible to tend to those injuries and regularly monitor them throughout healing.
There are too many possible injuries from aviation accidents to list; however, the following are some of the most common injuries caused by aircraft crashes:
Unfortunately, brain injuries are a common result of aviation accidents. This is due to the extreme turbulence seen in these accidents. The turbulence can cause one’s head to make hard contact with their surroundings such as windows or falling luggage. Brain injuries can cause changes in a person’s personality, mood, decision-making ability, and more. These types of injuries take a longer time to recover from.
BROKEN OR FRACTURED BONES
Sudden changes in altitudes seen in accidents can cause your body to make contact with your surrounding with blunt force. The impact can cause a person to have many broken or fractured bones. The most common sign of a fracture or break is a pain in the area. Other signs and symptoms include swelling or bruising, deformity, or inability to use the body part, such as being unable to walk in the case of a femur or ankle break.
SPINAL CORD AND BACK INJURIES
The immense impact planes make during an accident causes extra stress on one’s spine and back, making those areas more susceptible to injuries. These injuries can result in partial or total paralysis.
Due to the friction of a plane crash and chemicals seen in planes, they are likely to explode or start a fire after an accident. These injuries can be severely painful and lead to disfigurement. Some burn injuries may require extensive medical care including cosmetic surgery or skin grafts.
POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER
Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is not just something military personnel suffers from — anyone can get it. PTSD is a psychological disorder that develops following a traumatic event of any type. It is common for people to develop it after being involved in an aviation accident.
Some of the numerous signs and symptoms of PTSD are flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety, panic attacks, depression, mood swings, behavior changes, suicidal thoughts, sleep disruption, and avoidance. Signs and symptoms of PTSD vary greatly between patients, so psychiatrist consultation is key if it is suspected.
LEARN MORE ABOUT YOUR OPTIONS AFTER AN AVIATION ACCIDENT
If you or someone you know has been involved in an aviation accident, you probably want to know more than just general information about aviation accidents; you want to know how it applies to your situation. Our team of experienced, passionate attorneys is here for that.
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