Who is responsible for airplane accidents?

Individuals who survived an aviation accident can recover damages for their physical bodily injury, pain, and suffering, loss of wages, and medical bills, both past, and future.

Aviation accidents can be the result of several factors, the most common being linked to flying errors, faulty design, maintenance failures, and lapses in communication.

If an individual survives an aviation accident, the damages he or she can recover include pain and suffering, loss of wages, and medical bills, both past and future.

In the event of an accident involving death, the relatives can recover damages for funeral expenses, the loss of support the victim would have provided, and others. Punitive damages are barred under the Warsaw Convention.

In a case involving private crashes, the responsible parties can include:

  • the pilot, if the crash occurred due to his error
  • the owner of the airplane
  • the insurer
  • the manufacturer

In the case of commercial flights, the responsible parties can include air traffic controllers, the airline, and the manufacturer of the airplane.

Damage limitations for aviation accidents

The Warsaw Convention and the Montreal Agreement signed by several airlines created strict damage limitations:

  • Absolute liability but limited damage payments by airlines.
  • $75,000 limitation applies only to international flights against airlines (applies only to liability of the airline on international flights “that had a point of departure or a stop in the United States.”) — product liability and other theories of liability are excluded.
  • The absolute liability and damage limitations apply only to cases against the airline and not to manufacturers or suppliers of the aircraft.
  • The $75,000 limitation for strictly domestic flights does not result in either "absolute liability" of the airline or the $75,000 damage limitation.
  • Some airlines have agreed to a proposed Transportation Department regulation allowing them to waive the $75,000 damage limit.
  • If the plaintiff can prove willful misconduct, the $75,000 limitation does not apply.
  • Injury or death caused by a carrier's "willful misconduct" is not subject to the Convention’s limitation on damages.
  • Damages can be obtained only if emotional distress is accompanied by physical injury.
  • Further limitations for damages for crashes "on the high seas" and no recovery for the emotional distress of the decedent or the loss of society, comfort, care of the survivors.

How to prove liability in an aviation accident with no survivors

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.

If you or a family member have been involved in an aviation accident, the time to get help is right now. Contact the top-rated law firm The Law Offices of Sean M. Cleary today to schedule your free, no-obligation consultation with our Miami aviation accident lawyer.

Even though investigations for these types of accidents can take longer than for other cases due to their complexity, we can offer the necessary assistance and support for anyone who wishes to use our services. We closely collaborate with accident investigators or other aviation experts to establish proper liability and increase your chances of winning in court.

Disclaimer: Please note that the information provided on this site is not formal legal advice, also the site does not allow you to form an attorney-client relationship.