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Airplane Crashes FAQ

1) Who can file a lawsuit following a plane crash?

If the plane crash results in injury to a passenger, then the passenger can file a lawsuit. If the plane crash results in death, then the next of kin of the plane crash victim may file a lawsuit, typically a wrongful death lawsuit, which is filed in situations where a loved one died as a result of negligence.

2) What damages can be recovered following a plane crash?

If the victim is injured in a plane crash, he can generally sue for pain and suffering, medical bills and loss of past and future wages. If the victim died in the plane crash, the family can sue for loss of support, funeral expenses, and damages for the society lost in the crash.

3) Can I sue if I'm injured on a plane even if there's no crash?

Possibly. If you are injured as a result of a loss of control of the plane, even if the plane does not crash, you may be able to file a lawsuit. For example, if the pilot knew about upcoming turbulence but did not warn passengers about that turbulence, and the turbulence resulted in your injury, then you may be eligible to file a lawsuit.

4) Can I still file a lawsuit if the crash occurred during an international flight?

Yes. There may be limits to the amount you can recover, but you can still file a lawsuit.

5) How long do I have to file a lawsuit?

It depends on the laws governing the plane crash. Generally speaking, the sooner you contact an attorney, the better.

6) Why do I need an attorney following a plane crash?

Plane crashes are often complex events that could involve a variety of factors and individuals or organizations. Even if the crash occurred because of bad weather, there could be issues with pilots having too much flight time or not enough rest, planes not being properly maintained or engine failure. A lawyer can help determine which people or organizations should be held liable for a plane crash.

7) Can an attorney contact me following a plane crash?

The Aviation Disaster Family Assistance Act includes a provision that prohibits lawyers and their agents from unsolicited communications with crash survivors and victims' families within 45 days of the crash. This is due to complaints by victims' families in high profile airline crashes that attorneys harassed them in the days immediately following the plane crash.

8) What is the Aviation Disaster Family Assistance Act?

The Aviation Disaster Family Assistance Act of 1996 was enacted following concerns raised by victims' families about improper conduct by attorneys and inadequate information regarding victims following the crashes of ValuJet Flight 592 and TWA Flight 800.

As a result, the Aviation Disaster Family Assistance Act was enacted to give the federal government a role in helping the families of aviation disaster victims and to prevent harassment on the part of attorneys who solicit business following an aviation disaster.

9) Who can be held liable for a plane crash?

The flight crew
The flight operator
Those responsible for maintaining the plane
The airline carrier
The aircraft manufacturer
Air traffic controllers
The company that manufacturers various aircraft parts

10) What can cause a plane crash?

There are many factors that can cause a plane crash. Some include:
  • Loss of control
  • Icing
  • Poor weather (including turbulence)
  • Improper maintenance
  • Defective design
  • Engine failure
  • Pilot error
  • Air traffic controller errors
  • FAA violations
  • Runway Incursions
11) Who investigates a plane crash?

Most plane crashes are investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). They are usually aided by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), local law enforcement, and representatives of the aircraft manufacturer. Depending on the circumstances of the plane crash, the Transportation Security Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation or the Department of Justice may also investigate the crash.

12) What is a runway incursion?

A runway incursion occurs at an airport and involves something on the ground (a vehicle, person or object) that creates a hazard for an aircraft that is taking off or landing. Runway incursions can be caused by error on the part of the pilot, the air traffic controller or ground crew and can result in catastrophic accidents.

13) What is the Federal Tort Claims Act?

Air traffic controllers are employees of the FAA. Therefore if their negligence results in an airplane accident, plaintiffs must sue under the Federal Tort Claims Act, which has special rules and procedures that must be followed to file a lawsuit.

14) Do the airline or the NTSB have any duties to family members following a plane crash?

Both the airline and the NTSB are responsible for fulfilling certain duties following a plane crash.

The airline must:
  • Establish a toll-free telephone line for victims' families
  • Contact families of the passengers on the plane before a list of all passengers on the flight is made public
  • Inform families of the death of family members, and
  • Assist families in traveling to the accident location.
The NTSB must designate an independent organization to provide or coordinate services for plane crash survivors and families of the victims. Such services include:
  • Counseling services
  • Victim identification
  • Daily briefings for families, and
  • Translation services.
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Last updated on Apr-16-10

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