Aviation Law

A Harvard University professor once calculated the annual risk of an average American being killed in a plane crash at about 1 in 11 million. But when a beloved family member or friend is one of those “1 in 11 million,” the statistics don’t matter. What matters is that through absolutely no fault of that family member or friend, he/she is gone forever. Justice demands that something be done, that someone be held fully accountable for that tragic loss. While the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) will certainly investigate and report on the causes of major aircraft crashes, the NTSB will not seek civil justice to compensate the bereaved beneficiaries of those tragic victims. And indeed, NTSB reports are not even admissible into evidence in civil cases.

Oftentimes, the victim was the primary breadwinner in his or her household. Suddenly, with one negligent or reckless act, those who relied so heavily on the victim for financial support find themselves financially destitute. It is hard to imagine losing a spouse, a parent, a child, or a grandchild, to an aircraft crash. Turning on the television and seeing graphic pictures of the wreckage only deepens the open wounds of sorrow and grief.

With very few exceptions, every aircraft crash is wholly preventable. Airplane and helicopter crashes occur for a myriad of different reasons:

  • Pilot Error
  • Defective Equipment
  • Defective design or structural problems with the aircraft
  • Air traffic controller errors
  • Faulty/defective maintenance or repair of the aircraft
  • Fuel problems

These events can give rise to legal claims against one or more individuals or companies, depending upon the particular cause(s) of the crash. For example, pilot error renders the pilot, his employer, and potentially others legally liable for the damages caused by that error. But sometimes it may not be the pilot’s fault. There may been a failure in the aircraft’s avionics (electronic systems such as communications, navigation, display and management, etc., fitted to aircraft to perform individual functions.) In that circumstance, there may be what we call “product liability” claims against the manufacturer of the particular component that failed. Perhaps it failed due to an inherent design defect, or a manufacturing defect, that could render the manufacturer “strictly liable” (i.e., legally responsible without regard to whether the manufacturer was negligent or careless.

Sometimes aircraft crashes occur because an air traffic controller was not doing his or her job correctly, causing a mid-air collision, or a ground collision in and around the airport. Air traffic controllers are licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). In certain circumstances, the FAA itself can be held liable under the Federal Tort Claims Act.

And sometimes aircraft crashes occur because weight limitations were exceeded, or the fuel was contaminated. Or perhaps, due to inadequate security, a plane is hijacked or an act of terrorism occurs that would not have happened had the airline (or gate security at a particular airport) done its job properly.

The NTSB tracks US Civil Aviation Accidents each calendar year, amassing information on accidents involving air carriers (regulated by Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations [CFR] Part 121), commuter and on-demand carriers (regulated by 14 CFR Part 135), and general aviation (regulated by 14 CFR Part 91). According to the NTSB, for Calendar Year 2013, there were a total of 1298 accidents, of which 236 were fatal accidents, resulting in 429 deaths.

The attorneys at GLG have vast experience in aviation crash cases. They guide their clients through the veritable quagmire of federal and state regulations and statutes, to ensure that their rights are vindicated to the fullest extent of the law. GLG invests substantial resources in investigating aviation incidents throughout the United States, and has collected millions of dollars on behalf of aviation disaster victims and their families.

There is absolutely no charge for a consultation, and we advance all expenses associated with the prosecution of your claims.