From the governmental standpoint, the public is protected by laws by both the Federal and State governments. In 1958, the Federal Aviation Act and Regulations was enacted to establish essential safety standards for airplanes. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) are responsible for overseeing aviation law in the United States. The FAA oversees the manufacture, operation, and maintenance of all aircraft, and the enforcement of aviation-related laws. The NTSB improves air travel safety by investigating all accidents and by recommending changes in aviation safety procedures.
From a personal level, the law firm of Powell & Espat protects individuals and families who have suffered a loss due to aviation accidents. Important issues to keep in mind if you have incurred a personal injury as a result of an aircraft accident are listed below.
Was it a defect in the aircraft or some part? Was it the pilot or flight crew? Was the weather a factor? What was the purpose of the flight? All of these key questions are important in an aviation case. By hiring the best experts available to review all of the evidence we can then make an informed decision about who is to blame for the accident.
Airlines, private aircraft owners and plane operators, pilots, FAA ground and air traffic controllers, aircraft manufacturers, aircraft maintenance companies and other aircraft that cause a collision.
Pilots are licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration and are required to undergo regular physical examinations to determine their fitness to fly. Both physical health and mental health are crucial for safe flying. Alcohol use by a pilot is a recipe for a disaster.
As a passenger on any aircraft you expect your pilot to possess and use the very highest levels of skill, performance and proficiency. Pilots should be able to recognize, assess and handle any types of emergency that may develop during a flight. They should be adept at handling mechanical failures, weather problems, other aircraft traffic, complex rapid flight instructions and navigation. All of these areas of flying require the pilot to be in top mental shape. Unfortunately, we are too familiar with pilots that fly while they are fatigued from being over worked. You may recall in October 2009 two Northwest Airline pilots were either sleeping or arguing when they overflew the Minneapolis airport by more than 100 miles. They were clearly not actually flying the plane as it overflew their airport. Many pilots underestimate the dangers of adverse weather, or they over estimate their ability to safely fly through bad weather. Pilots make mistakes in reading their instruments, and this leads them into a disaster. Or a pilot may not follow the manufacturer's instructions regarding stall avoidance and recovery.
Pre-Flight inspections are critical. Using and following check lists again are paramount for safety, and yet some pilots are in a hurry. Rushed, they don't follow the proper safety steps. Or they are not as familiar as they should be with the aircraft, or they lack the ability to understand, or they may not have read the manufacturer's instructions and check lists. All of these types of errors lead to catastrophic results.
Unfortunately when aircraft owners are having financial difficulties, or just trying to make higher profits, maintenance is one of the first areas where they try to save money. This type of financial decision puts people at risk.
The economics of flight. Obviously it is expensive to own and operate aircraft. Paying highly skilled pilots and crew, having adequate maintenance support and trying to stay profitable, the airlines may cut corners by paying pilots less than they should earn, resulting in them taking on two jobs to just meet expenses, or not having enough maintenance personnel to properly service the aircraft. By saving money they put the public at risk.
In crashes involving small private planes, air charters or sightseeing aircraft, the maintenance errors are usually caused by the aircraft operator's decision to cut corners on maintenance costs or human conditions such as exhaustion, overconfidence, laziness, indifference and incompetence.
After a crash, the investigation is the key to finding out exactly what happened? Where was the breakdown that caused the tragedy? Obtaining and collecting key evidence is very important, and quite often in a crash the key evidence is lost or destroyed. Even though the NTSB does a review of aviation crashes, we also must consider examining: flight data recorders, cockpit voice recorders, flight plans, crash photos, maintenance and inspection records, crew training records, aircraft maintenance logs and manuals, and air traffic control records. All of these documents may be important to help us prove the fault for the crash. We attempt to assemble any and all evidence to prove our case, then we retain top experts in the field of aviation safety, aircraft maintenance, aircraft operation to uncover where the mistakes were made that lead to the crash.
In 1994, Congress passed the General Aviation Revitalization Act (GARA). This law prevents a plaintiff from suing the manufacturer of an aircraft or its component parts if the defective aircraft or component part is more than 18 years old. However, often times a plaintiff can prove that the manufacturer withheld important information from the Federal Aviation Administration, concerning an aircraft or component's performance, maintenance, and/or compliance with airworthiness obligations. Also, under the GARA law, if a defective part is re-tooled, revised, replaced, or updated within the 18–year period then a suit can be brought against the manufacturer.
It is interesting to note that about 80% of all aviation accidents are a result of human error, not a defective plane or part.
If you have a questions about a plane or helicopter accident call us toll free from anywhere in the United States at 1-800-422-8689. Also, please don't sign any type of release or liability waiver until you have spoken to an attorney. You may be waiving your rights to receive fair compensation for the damages or loss. Please call us for a free consultation about your aviation accident no matter where the accident occurred.
Call us and find out who is the best personal injury lawyer for you and your family when the victim of an aircraft accident.