Aviation Accident Statistics
Aviation has been active for over 100 years, and technology, safety, and skill have all increased and advanced in those decades. Now, new computerized technology and ample navigation systems make aviation a more seamless affair than ever. However, despite the relative safety, there are still accidents that can happen. Part of this is attributed to the fact that some pilots are negligent in their operation of aircraft, which is not helped by the amount of private aircraft that are present in the country. Amateur pilots and students are not as seasoned or adept as others, and they run a greater risk of accidents. There are over 220,000 active aircraft present in the country with many individuals who have their pilot’s licenses. Some do not accumulate the necessary flight hours to fly unsupervised or pursue a career in aviation, while others seek to own their own planes or helicopters. Such careers can include parachute plane operators, air medic operators, commercial pilots, and more. However, as with everything, accidents happen. In 2018, there were over 550 deaths related to aircraft accidents. The majority of accidents happen in the cruise part of a flight, or when the aircraft is en route to its destination. Fewer crashes happen during takeoff, descent, and landing. Since 2010, aviation accidents have been steadily decreasing, despite more flights and more aircraft being used. For example, the amount of helicopters has increased by 30%, as has their usage, but at the same time, helicopter accidents have dropped between 30 and 50%. Many times, percentages are deceiving. We automatically default to larger numbers when we hear sizeable percentages, but in actuality, the real number of accidents is small. For example, there were only 15 airliner accidents in 2018 – an extremely small amount when compared to the total quantity of flights that embark each day.
Major Aviation Accidents
Aviation accidents are not as widespread as car accidents, so the occurrences often get more news coverage, examination, and scrutiny. When specific types of aircraft are involved in incidents, there is even more attention and eyes on the crash. For example, on October 29th, 2018, Lion Air Flight 610 crashed into the sea after takeoff in Jakarta, killing all of the nearly 200 individuals on board. The plane was a Boeing 737 MAX 8, which was later discovered to have suspicions of flight control issues, Angle of Attack (AOA) failure, instrument malfunction, and more. As a result of the Lion Air crash, Boeing issued a warning to all operators of such planes. Less than six months later, Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashed in Ethiopia, also killing all of the more than 150 people on board. The plane was also a MAX 8, and initial investigation has prompted the idea that the MAX 8 was afflicted with the same problem as the other aircraft on Lion Air Flight 610.
What circumstances allowed more than one Boeing MAX 8 to be in flight?
This is a tricky discussion. Generally, aircraft manufacturers and airlines are concerned with profits, while safety takes a backseat. If there is the chance that their profits will drop, they may sacrifice safety to ensure their numbers stay constant. This may have been the case with Boeing – after a rival company introduced an aircraft that could travel an additional 500 miles and complete transatlantic flights, Boeing began to sweat at the possibility of losing a large airline client. As a result, it pushed the MAX 8 through production without extensive testing. There were no issues for a while until the Lion Air crash. Immediately prior to the Lion Air crash, a pilot noted that there were automation issues and opted to turn it off in favor of manual control. This was not addressed to the extent it should have been, and investigation determined that the sensors may have frozen. The pilots may have had ample time to correct the issue the plane had but did not notice it because of the broken sensors and signals. In sum, many of accidents can be prevented with closer inspection of planes, more adequate training, better engineering, additional tweaks to design, and longer periods of testing.
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Aviation Accident Information: Types, Causes, and More
Given the amount of aircraft that are present in the country, it is not surprising that accidents of all natures can occur. The most impactful crashes that lead to the largest loss of life are usually passenger accidents on planes from major airlines. There can be over a hundred individuals on these planes, and if a crash happens in a city or town, there can be additional damage to homes, families, land, structures, and more. Some common types of aviation accidents can be found below.
Commercial airline flights are the most common accidents. These flights can be domestic or international, traveling anywhere from the country to another location. Although there are not as many commercial airline crashes as there used to be, any incident is still troublesome, and the right party should be held accountable. There are various laws and regulations that pertain to commercial travel. For example, the Montreal Convention re-establishes, modifies, and amends certain aspects of the Warsaw Convention’s procedure for victims of air disasters. Notably, it does not recognize the now-common compensation for psychiatric injury or pain and suffering to victims. Admiralty Law is another law that is on an international level that attempts to cover issues that take place in or over navigable or international waters.
Helicopter crashes may occur due to pilot inexperience, given that rotary-sing aircraft are much different from fixed-wing aircraft. It can be difficult to fly helicopters with no stress, but unfortunately, many helicopters are used in stressful situations. For example, helicopters are used in search and rescue missions and police apprehensions. The helicopters must be expertly navigated to keep targets in sight or scan the land below. Because of the limits of the human eye and technology, helicopters must often be relatively close to the ground. This is not much of an issue given that helicopters are much more maneuverable than planes, but because of the closer distance, the risk of accidents and error increases. In addition, medical helicopters often must transport victims from hard-to-reach locations or isolated areas to hospitals or facilities. These helicopters may have to go to forests, oceans, rivers, and densely closed off urban areas to airlift a victim to safety. The issue is that there is seldom a place to land the helicopter that would be safe, if any location at all. Yet, not at all helicopters are used in such stressful situations. Helicopter tours are common and they often give unique and breathtaking aerial views of cities, but the pilots must be appropriately trained and skilled to give such tours. Helicopters can also be privately-owned and used as the main form of transportation over relatively short distances. This is usually an expensive option, though, and pilots that are hired must be appropriately skilled and experienced. Helicopter pilots should always be on the lookout for improperly maintained landing zones, power lines and wires, trees and hanging branches, structures, towers, and more.
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Private aircraft are those owned by individuals and kept at bases, ranches, hangars, or other locations. They may fly for enjoyment, or they may rent the planes out to others. The primary issue with private aircraft crashes lies on the experience level of the pilot and the awareness of what to do. Pilot error is the most common cause of crashes, and it is no exception in private plane accidents. Some of the biggest issues surrounding private aircraft accidents concern insurance (pilots, maintenance areas, flight clubs, and other similar entities may not have any insurance coverage at all), looser regulations (Federal guidelines are much stricter than General), and lack of analytical equipment (black boxes, flight data, voice records, and more are seldom available or provided).
In-flight injuries occur while the plane is in the air and en route to its destination. The different in-flight injuries that we have seen are not usually a direct pilot error; they are more commonly held to the accountability of the creator of the aircraft or the crew who did not inspect the plane. Other parties can be held accountable For example, if a stewardess spills hot coffee on your lap and burns you, you may be able to sue the airline for negligent action. The planes should also be properly maintained, and if there are any internal defects, they should be fixed. For example, the hard plastic and metal located near seats and in aisles should not be jagged or broken, or it could pose a serious risk to passengers. Seats and restraints must also be in proper working order; passengers can be ejected from their seats during lift off, landing, and in turbulence. There may also be overhead compartments that suddenly fall open, leading to falling luggage and belongings. This can cause various blunt-force traumas to passengers. Carpets in the aisle and anything where people walk should be navigable; slip and fall incidents are not uncommon on airlines. Turbulence is the chief cause of in-flight injuries that do not involve pilot error. The plane may shake and sway, and the pilot will usually warn passengers to stay seated. However, turbulence can still affect everyone on the flight.
Aviation that distinctly operates in according with entertainment is a dangerous business venture at times. For example, parachuting companies and skydiving companies need to ensure that they have the most highly-trained individuals helping people and that they know what to do in case of emergency. Further, pilots need to be extremely experienced and knowhow high up to take the planes or helicopters, where to land them, and more. Small errors by these individuals can lead to numerous tragedies and loss of life.
Causes of Aviation Accidents
Between the FAA and the NTSB, causes of aviation accidents are divulged in reports after the incidents are thoroughly investigated and all evidence is evaluated. Crew members, pilots, passengers, eyewitnesses, and other parties can also provide adequate information or insight as to what the issues were. We have listed the most common causes of aviation accidents below:
Loss of Control In-flight
Aircraft are not generally fully controlled by either pilots or automatic systems. They are operated in a blend of both, and each depends on the other for safe and secure flights. There are times when readings may be wrong and a pilot must intervene, and inversely, there are moments when a pilot makes a mistake that the plane corrects. Pilot error may occur if he falls asleep, has a medical episode, makes a wrong reading, does not follow proper procedure, misses the runway, has a premature descent, navigates into the wrong area, and much more.
Controlled Flight into Terrain
A controlled flight into terrain is not necessarily a crash that happens into any mass. Generally, it occurs when a pilot has control of the plane but unintentionally crashes it. The pilot may not know his position relative to anything else, or he may overshoot a runway. Pilots may be exhausted from long flights, which could lead to poor decisions.
When planes are not properly fueled or do not have enough fuel in the tanks to complete a trip, the planes will stall. Fuel starvation occurs when there is enough fuel in the tanks, but there may be a blockage or some kind of defect that is preventing the fuel from reaching its necessary areas. In these scenarios, the pilot must safely glide the plane to a landing.
In some situations, plots do not amply communicate with each other and or one party does not convey his whereabouts to another. Midair collisions are not as common as one would think given that there are usually many channels that people use to talk in the sky.
Rough weather can greatly distress pilots and cause a plane to suffer severe turbulence. It can make takeoff and landing difficult and it can complicate situations in the air. Thunderstorms, ice storms, lighting, and more can impact a plane’s flight. In some situations, planes have crashed due to striking birds, geese, and other flying animals.
Planes should be adequately inspected before takeoff, but not only in those moments. They should be adequately tested and examined at every stage of production, form the conceptualization and design process to the actual manufacturing. If there are issues with instruments, engines, or other parts, flights can be fatal.
Legal Information for Aircraft Passengers
Aircraft passengers should be aware of their various rights depending on the services they entered. Commercial airlines providing flights to customers, for example, owe all the customers an exceptional duty of care. The level of negligence that is displayed in some incidents is more than enough to file a lawsuit and have an adequate foundation to sue. If you wish to file a claim based on negligence, you must be able to establish these four points as true:
- You were owed a duty of care by the responsible party
- The duty of care was breached in some manner
- The breach of duty resulted in an accident
- The incident resulted in actual physical harm
Each of these points must be true; even one being shown as false will cause the claim to fall apart. For example, if you were not harmed in an aviation accident, you may not be able to pursue a personal injury claim. The presence of injuries is necessary to take legal action in such a way. However, if you were not hurt and only had other economic losses, you could pursue those damages. For instance, if a crash left you stranded somewhere or unable to board a flight to return home, you may not be able to go to work. You could also have lost luggage, personal items, and other belongings. This could lead to you pursuing reimbursement for your lost wages and replacement costs for your property.
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Bear in mind that pilots and similar individuals are common carriers, and thus owe passengers higher duties of care than usual. In general, insurance companies will be more open to dealing with claims that have lower payment requests, such as those involving missed income and damaged property. The costs are not nearly as high as medical bills and pain and suffering costs. You also may not even require an attorney to negotiate a deal from the insurance agent. Regardless, if you were injured, it is in your best interest to hire a lawyer; negotiations will become extremely difficult in the presence of medical bills.
Product Liability Note
Product liability claims are often filed when consumers are injured by items they have purchased. A passenger on a plane does not buy the plane, so he cannot file a product liability claim as an owner. However, if there are issues that contribute to injuries, he could still sue. From 2006 to 2017, airline companies tried to push through a law that would exempt them from product liability claims. Essentially, the FAA provides certification for aircraft in three steps: a type certificate that states the aircraft, a new design, or a component part properly works and meets safety standards; a production certificate that states that all duplicate parts will perform in the same manner as the type-certified design; and an airworthiness certificate, which guarantees that the aircraft is safe for flight. The argument was that because of this extensive certification process showing that the aircraft works and adheres to standards, and that any product liability claims would be excessive or preempted, and thus, not able to be filed by any plaintiffs or victims. An eleven-year struggle eventually saw this fight fail, and airlines can still be targeted in product liability claims.
Evidence and Procedure for a Claim
If you intend to file a lawsuit for an aviation accident, you must have ample evidence for your claim. This can include pictures of the crash and crash site, eyewitness report, passenger statements, reports from the aviation administration and crash investigation, and more. Once you have acquired this evidence, you can submit a claim to the insurance agency. In the event that you lost a family member or loved one in a crash, you can file a wrongful death claim. Of course, much evidence will likely be lost, and any findings from the crash can take months to surface or be published. Investigating crews must sift through wreckage and determine the cause of the crash, and they must pore over the black box contents and other pieces of evidence that could point them to the solution. For commercial plane crashes and other high-passenger carrier planes, there may be numerous fatalities and injuries. This can cause surviving family members or loved ones to join together in a class action lawsuit against the responsible party. A class action lawsuit is different from a normal lawsuit in that it has numerous plaintiffs banding together to compile their evidence against the defendant. This means that the burden of proof is often quite large, and there can be enough evidence to quickly succeed with a claim. However, the resulting settlement amount would be distributed amongst the plaintiffs. This can lead to small portions of recovery per party, which may not cover nearly enough of the damages. It is, more often than not, financially wiser to pursue damages as a singular entity as opposed to part of a class action lawsuit. You should file an incident report or inquiry with the company responsible for the crash. You may also have to pursue damages from a private insurance company, or even your own if the pilot did not have any coverage at all. When it comes to liability, you may be able to hold various parties accountable, depending on the circumstances and nature of your accident. You may be able to assign blame to parties such as:
- Airline for failure to provide a safe flight
- Pilot for making an error or not acting with a reasonable amount of care
- Airport facility or staff for allowing negligence to occur, for permitting certain aircraft to fly, and more
- Air traffic controllers for not directing planes while on runways or while landing, or for providing incorrect (or even not providing at all) data to the pilots
- Aircraft manufacturers for design flaws, manufacturing errors, or failures to warn or provide hazard symbols on the aircraft
- Engineers or maintenance workers responsible for upkeep of the plane
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Value of an Aviation Accident Claim
There is no surefire way to determine the value of an aviation accident lawsuit until an insurance agent has made an offer. The offer could vary from a small sum of less than $10,000 to over $1,000,000. The worth will depend on many factors. The first, and most important, concerns your injuries: if you were severely or extensively hurt and your injuries prevented you from living your normal life or maintaining a career, your damages could be very high. On the other hand, a minor injury with no long-lasting impact would not net you nearly as much in compensation. The insurance agent will also look at your age, career type, and more. Aviation accidents seldom have comparative negligence involved, which occurs when a plaintiff can be held partially responsible for the accident. In aviation accidents, this may involve a passenger who disrupts a pilot, who breaks an instrument, or who causes a defect to appear in the aircraft before an incident occurs. It is not recommended to pursue an aviation accident lawsuit by yourself. You will very likely not have the legal experience required to handle the negotiation and litigation aspects of the claim. You may not be able to reach the insurance agent and the agent will not consider you a threat in any way. A skilled attorney, on the other hand, works all day to win cases for clients. An aviation accident lawyer can handle your claim for you and ensure that you are given the best representation available.
Sample Settlements of Aviation Accidents
Many individuals call with questions regarding the value of their claims or want to know how much money they can win in a lawsuit. It is wise to look at other cases and settlements to see how much they are worth, but this is no indication that your claim will be similar. Many aviation accidents result in wrongful deaths, and the level of negligence is often quite high. This is why many cases settle for large amounts of money. Airlines and aircraft manufacturers that place many lives at risk or contribute to multiple deaths should be hold appropriately responsible. To ensure that you receive the maximum compensation available for your claim, you need to speak with a qualified and skilled aviation accident attorney.
American Eagle Flight 4184
Eagle Flight 4184 crashed in Indiana, resulting in numerous deaths. Claims were filed against the operators of the airline for negligence in inspection, as well as against the manufacturer of the plane. The wings of the plane were not effectively design to handle icy conditions, which are common in winters in Indiana or upon reaching certain altitudes. Prior to the trial, the parties agreed on a settlement totaling $110 million.
Engine Failure on Plane
A businessman was in a plane when the engine failed shortly after takeoff from an airport. The cause of failure was attributed to a crack found on the head of the engine caused by a faulty cylinder. The crack and instability made the plane shake violently, eventually causing the crash. The lawsuit was brought against the manufacturer of the aircraft, resulting in a settlement of $5.5 million.
A pilot flying a Cessna 210 was killed in a crash after the actuator rod and elevator spar had issues. The failure of the parts led to a loss of control and the crash. His family/estate filed a lawsuit against the manufacturer for recovery of damages. In addition, it was discovered that the air traffic controllers directed the pilot into unfavorable weather conditions. The weather conditions attributed to the crash, preventing the pilot from having the option of landing in a safe spot. The estate collected over $4.5 million for the lawsuit.
Forms of Compensation from Aviation Accidents
Aviation accident lawsuits can result in numerous types of compensation for victims and surviving family members or loved ones. You should be paid appropriately if you were injured or if you lost someone in an aviation accident, especially if there was negligence involved. The responsible party was liable for the incident, and therefore, should cover the resulting expenses. Our attorneys can ensure that you receive coverage for the following:
- Medical bills, surgery costs, future medical treatments, hospitalization, physical therapy, medication, and more
- Lost income from the days of work you missed, as well as future lost wages for recovery time, inability to return to work, disability pay, or medical procedures
- Property damage for any personal belongings that were lost or broken
- Pain and suffering damages for psychiatric damages, PTSD, anxiety, fear, emotional trauma, psychological scarring, and more
In aviation accidents that result in fatalities, you could file a wrongful death claim. This states that a family member or loved one would not have died or been in the position to die had it not been for the negligent action of the party. You could receive various damages for a wrongful death claim, including funeral expenses, loss of consortium and relations, loss of inheritance and savings, pre-death medical bills and pain and suffering, and more. There is also the possibility that punitive damages can be awarded to you. These damages can be given out when the responsible party is grossly negligent and has no regard for human care or preservation of life. They are additional forms of monetary compensation meant to punish the defendant and prevent him from acting in a similar way in the future; they are usually awarded to replace jail time in civil cases. When dealing with a company instead of an individual, the business may be forced to pay these copious fees. However, it is not uncommon for judges and juries to consider these damages too excessive or severe, and will not award them. Only a lawyer with ample experience in aviation accidents will be able to secure them for your case. It is important to note that some flights are international and contain passengers that are not residents of that country. There are many tricky laws and regulations that must be adhered to in order to sue. In the case of the recent Boeing 737 MAX 8 crash, it is likely that Boeing will try to settle any potential lawsuits in other countries to prevent investigations and merely pay out damages. This will allow them to save a lot of money and not pay victims the proper compensation they deserve. To avoid any potential pitfalls, you should speak with an expert aviation accident lawyer.
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Deadline to File a Lawsuit for an Aviation Accident Lawsuit
There are different state limits on the statute of limitations for personal injury lawsuits. In California, you have two years from the date of the injury to file a claim or you will not be allowed to pursue compensation in the future. Missing the deadline means that you will not have any coverage for your damages, so it is crucial that you meet the limit. The statute of limitations allows fair opportunities for both parties to acquire evidence. Plaintiffs can take all the necessary proof and file a claim before the evidence is lost or forgotten about and the defendant can provide evidence in his own favor. With the length of time that can go into these investigations, though, it may distress people to not have enough evidence at the time of the filing. Fortunately, our attorneys can remedy that, and ensure that all of your proof is used to win your lawsuit. In some situations, your statute of limitations can be extended beyond the 2 year limit. This is most common in instances where you are below the age of 18 and cannot file a claim until you turn legal age or when you are left mentally or physically incapable of suing. Once you return to health, you’ll have to adhere to the statute again. Also, it is possible that the defendant can leave the state and evade the lawsuit. This choice impacts the statute of limitations, though; as long as he is not present in the state, the statute is suspended.
The Best Aviation Accident Firm in the Country
Aviation accidents are not that common, and so, it pays to secure representation from a lawyer with experience in the field. Our firm has been at the forefront of aviation accidents and lawsuits for years, and we have capable lawyers who will dedicate their time and energy to your case. Among our attorneys is Phillip Peche, renowned aviation accident reconstruction expert witness, decorated naval combat veteran, experienced pilot, and skilled lawyer. He has provided a unique set of qualifications to his legal career and a background that few have – his tenure in the military and his passion for flight means that he understands all aspects of federal and state law regarding aviation, and he is acutely aware of aircraft and flight regulations and laws. In addition, he is well-versed in multidistrict litigation and has a wealth of knowledge regarding aviation and civil law in numerous states. To schedule a free consultation, contact our expert aviation accident lawyers at the Downtown LA Law Group. We can discuss your case with you and tell you what we think the best path is moving forward. If you wish to hire us for our legal services, we will give you our zero fee guarantee – you won’t have to pay a dime out of pocket for anything. We will cover the costs of the case from start to finish, and if we win a settlement or verdict for you, we will get paid from a portion of the winnings. If we lose, we take no money at all. Your finances will not be drained because you chose to file a claim. Let our aviation accident attorneys win your lawsuit for you. Contact the Downtown LA Law Group today.