Aviation in modern times has grown far beyond its limited origins. “Aircraft” today come in an amazing array of forms. The term obviously includes the huge commercial airliners, smaller commercial “commuter” planes, and the hordes of private planes that vary considerably in size, power, and features. But aircraft also includes cargo planes, “ultralight” hobby planes, other gliders, helicopters, and hot air balloons of various types. These vehicles perform many different activities and require different levels of training and expertise to operate.
No matter what type of aircraft is involved, a crash or other accident can injure and kill people in the vehicle as well as those outside it. And the list of reasons that an aircraft may have an accident is very long, indeed, as is the list of persons and companies that might bear some legal responsibility for the injuries and deaths.
Further complicating the field is the fact that commercial airlines are subject to a very specific set of laws designed for that industry, while different laws apply to all other civilian aircraft.
It’s a very complicated landscape, requiring someone with significant experience to really handle any claim for compensation after an accident.
There are two federal agencies assigned the job of overseeing aviation. One, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has the job of overseeing safety by developing and enforcing standards for safety and operation that apply to pilots, manufacturers, and others who oversee flight operations.
The other, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has the job of investigating accidents involving civilian aircraft and, based on its experience in the investigations, recommending changes to the safety standards.
Causes of Aviation Accidents
A remarkable number of factors may cause an aviation accident. The most common are:
- Air traffic control errors
- Pilot error
- Fires or explosions inside the plane
- Mechanical failure
- Lightning and other weather conditions
- Design flaws
- Damage from birds flying into the craft
- Errors in fueling and/or preparing, the aircraft for flight
Background on Aviation Injuries and Deaths
While major airline crashes usually have few, if any survivors, people in other aviation accidents often do survive. An analysis of hospital admission records covering 2000 through 2005 indicated that:
- An estimated total of 6080 people were admitted during the 6-year period for aviation-related injuries (average of 1,013 annually)
- The average length of stay in the hospital was 6.3 days
- Some 2% of the admitted patients died without leaving the hospital
- An estimated 753 deaths occurred each year
- The ratio of hospitalizations to deaths was 1.3
- Head injury was the most common factor in deaths
Status and Activity of Those Injured or Killed
Most, but not all, people injured in aviation accidents are occupants of the aircraft involved. In the analysis of aviation-related injuries described above, those who survived to the hospital were involved in:
- Noncommercial aircraft (32 percent of the admissions)
- Parachuting (29 percent)
- Commercial aircraft (11 percent)
- Unpowered aircraft (11 percent)
Seventeen percent of hospitalized patients didn’t fall into any of those categories. These victims included ground workers, passengers and crew injured outside the airplane.
Among victims who died:
- Eighty-seven percent were occupants of noncommercial aircraft
- Seven percent were commercial aircraft occupants
- Three percent were parachutists
It’s Very, Very Complex
At the beginning of any aviation accident case, there are always far more questions than answers. Who and what caused the accident? When will that even be known? What do I do while accident investigators complete their investigation? With the help of an experienced aviation accident attorney, the questions can slowly give way to answers.
If the accident involves an NTSB investigation of a commercial flight, know that you’re starting out at a disadvantage. The airline, the pilot, even the air traffic control people, will probably be part of the investigation and able to stay abreast of what’s going on. You won’t. But once the investigation is complete, there may be an opportunity to use the results to your benefit.
There are also many questions to answer about the kind of lawsuit and the amount of damages to demand. The case is different for victims who live than for victims who die, and different still for those who live for a time before dying.
Get Legal Help in Texas
If you or someone you know has been in an aviation accident, the time to get the assistance of an experienced Texas attorney is now. If you have already been contacted by an insurer about the accident, the time to get help is right this minute.
Our attorneys at the law firm of Briggle & Polan, PLLC, in Austin, Texas, can help you start the process of sorting out who did what, who may be legally responsible for it, and the best way to proceed. We can sort out who should be sued, which court should hear the case, and how the federal laws on aviation and safety may affect recovery. We make every effort to settle fairly, without the cost and delay of a trial, but we remain ready and very able to take the case through trial when that’s the only way to get fair compensation.
Call today to learn how we can help.