How to Prove Liability in an Aviation Accident With no Survivors?

In order to prove liability in an aviation accident where there were no survivors, a team of experts will need to investigate and analyze the data recorders, the cockpit voice recorders, radar information, and the wreckage of the aircraft. In an airplane crash where it is very difficult, if not impossible, to establish the precise cause of the crash, the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur protects plaintiffs, thus absolving them from liability.

Airplane crash investigation by experts can often determine the cause of a crash even if no one survives. All airliners and many charter aircraft contain instruments called flight data recorders and cockpit voice recorders. Radar information and careful investigation of the wreckage also tell investigators why a plane crashed.

In an airplane crash where it is very difficult, if not impossible, to establish the precise cause of the crash, the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur protects plaintiffs. Res ipsa loquitur can make an impossible case to prove, provable. If the following 3 conditions are met, there is a presumption of negligence:

  • the accident is of a kind that ordinarily does not occur absent someone’s negligence;
  • the accident or injury was caused by an agency or instrumentality within the defendant’s exclusive control;
  • the accident or injury was not due to any voluntary action or contribution of the plaintiff.

Thus, in almost every airplane case brought by anybody other than the pilot or co-pilot, there will be a presumption of negligence if the airplane crashes.

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