As of October 17, 2021, this year has seen six (6) airline accidents causing 110 deaths. These statistics are only for commercial airlines that carry 14 or more passengers. Not every airline incident involves an accident, but that doesn’t mean things can’t go wrong that leaves you wondering if you can sue an airline.
Airlines are held to the common carrier standard of care. Common carriers include airlines, railroads, taxi cabs, or other public transportation.
This rule states that any common carrier must adhere to specific standards of care. This means they must use the utmost care and vigilance in their conduct toward passengers from a business perspective.
When things go wrong in the air, there is no doubt about the importance of having an aviation accident attorney on your side. Let’s take a look at what type of legal help you will receive when you hire a lawyer.
1. You Don’t Need to Be Injured to File a Lawsuit
There are numerous incidents that may result in an airline failing to take appropriate action. It can be something as simple as an airline failing to pay the right amount of money for an incident or causing emotional distress. Here are some examples:
- Injury or death due to equipment failure
- In-flight incidents such as luggage falling from an overhead compartment
- Emotional distress or assault and battery, such as a passenger being physically dragged off an overbooked flight
- Refusal to treat sick passengers or make an emergency landing due to a medical emergency
- Breach of contract by failing to provide services in accordance with federal regulations
- Claims for damaged or lost luggage
The best step to take when you incur any questionable aviation incident is to consult with an experienced aviation accident attorney. They will evaluate your case and determine the best course of action in resolving your claim.
2. Gather Discovery to Determine Fault
While it is easy to assume an airline accident is the pilot’s fault, this is not necessarily the case. When you hire an attorney they will immediately begin gathering discovery. Discovery is the gathering of evidence or information from the opposing party and/or outside expert sources.
More than an exchange of documents, it may involve interrogatories, which are written questions that must be answered under oath. There are also requests for admission, which are statements the other party must admit or deny.
In the case of an airline accident or personal injury at an aviation location, your attorney may request information such as airline insurance declarations or enlist of help of an accident reconstruction expert. They may conduct depositions of the pilot, co-pilot, air traffic controller, steward or stewardess, other passengers, and more.
The gathering of information provides insight into whether the cause of the accident was:
- Pilot error
- Equipment malfunction
- Inclement weather conditions
- Air traffic controller error
- Programming defects
- Faulty maintenance or repair
- Manufacturer defects
- Lack of sufficient fuel
- Engine or other structural failures
- Take-off or landing issues
The gathering of evidence during discovery is what provides your aviation attorney with insight into not just the cause of the accident, but whether or not there is more than one defendant to list in the lawsuit. Consideration may also be given to whether a class action lawsuit may be necessary because of numerous victims in the accident.
3. Legal Factors
When filing a lawsuit, your aviation lawyer will determine the appropriate actions to take in the filing of a lawsuit.
The first is whether any party was negligent in their actions, resulting in the accident. This may include negligent behavior, including a pilot with drugs or alcohol in their system or fatigue. It may also include a mechanic that failed to conduct required safety checks or repairs, airplane stewards who did not securely secure overhead booths, and more.
Your attorney will look at the possibility of unsafe parts being installed on the plane, leading to injury. In this case, the manufacturer may be liable for the accident.
There are two agencies that regulate air travel and oversee aviation accidents. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) sets regulations for things such as aircraft manufactures, flight operations, and pilot conduct. These regulations set the safety standards for the entire aviation industry.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) conducts investigations regarding aviation accidents Following their investigation they write an accident report that is used for creating or changing safety standards to prevent a recurrence of the same type of accident.
The determination of the NTSB will provide your attorney with valuable information when filing a lawsuit against an airline if there was an accident causing personal injury.
4. Determining Venue, Jurisdiction, and Other Legal Requirements
Usually, when filing a lawsuit it is easy to determine what county and state to file a lawsuit in. This includes whether it falls within state law or federal law, and who the defendant is. An aviation accident adds several factors that must be given careful consideration.
If the aircraft in which you suffer injury takes off from Ohio but the accident takes place in Texas, which state holds jurisdiction? Is this a lawsuit that you file under Texas state jurisdiction, or is it federal? Which court establishes the statute of limitations?
The majority of aviation accidents have numerous plaintiffs who reside in different states and/or countries. This means many aviation accidents fall under diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. §1332. This type of case involves a plaintiff from a state different than the defendant and the amount of controversy being in excess of $75,000.
It is important to use an attorney with experience in aviation accidents who can determine whether filing within your home state or under the federal diversity law is appropriate. This prevents your case from being dismissed by the court for incorrect jurisdiction.
In Texas, the statute of limitations for airplane accidents is two years. This is the same for personal injury claims arising from an airline accident.
The best place to file your lawsuit will depend on numerous factors your aviation accident attorney will consider. Case examples in the Aviation Lawyer’s Operating Handbook show careful consideration is necessary. Jurisdiction depends on who the defendant(s) are, the defendant’s primary place of business, and more.
5. Negotiate a Settlement or Go to Trial
The ultimate goal in a lawsuit following an aviation accident is to have the appropriate parties held responsible. This includes them paying compensation to cover the damages you suffer. Damages include medical bills, loss of income, disfigurement, wrongful death, funeral expenses, loss of consortium, and more.
Proving liability is challenging. Your airplane accident attorney will have both legal experience and aviation knowledge to prove your claim. Be aware that aviation accidents involve a wide range of aircraft that extends beyond commercial airlines. You may experience injury when riding on a private plane, helicopter, or glider. These smaller aircraft are often used in tourism and volunteer activities.
If your attorney is unable to obtain a satisfactory out-of-court settlement, they will proceed with presenting your case at trial.
Consult With an Experienced Aviation Accident Attorney
Omar Khawaja Law Firm Injury & Accident Lawyers have experience taking large companies like Boeing to court, news reports on this can be found in the media. These cases are moving forward to settlement closure, with airlines trying hard to drag their feet. Having this experience to take on these large aviation accidents and negligence cases from scratch to finish is what you need to drive success. The airline will have some of the best teams, get aviation accident experienced Omar Khawaja Law Firm Injury & Accident Lawyers on your side, with a 99% success rate, we have the experience to drive maximum compensation results.
When you suffer any type of airline incident, schedule a consultation with an aviation accident attorney. Omar Khawaja Law Firm Injury & Accident Lawyers will provide you with a 100% free case evaluation.
We work on a contingency basis, which means you pay nothing unless we win your case. There are no upfront fees or costs. Call (281) 888-2339 to schedule an evaluation appointment or use our online contact page.