What Are Passengers Legal Rights following Aviation Accidents?

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Aviation accidents are relatively more common than most individuals realize.  For the most part, only large commercial aviation accidents make into the news.  However, private aircraft accidents, including chartered flights, regular occur at airports around the United States.  Additionally, no single aviation accident is the same as another, and if a fatality occurs, the FAA is required to investigate.  Additionally, investigations will occur by a number of other entities following any aviation accident, regardless whether it resulted in death, injury, or only property damage.  Aviation accidents happen when crash landing go wrong, when normal landings go wrong, when the fuselage breaks away from the plane, when mechanical errors occur and when the pilot cannot control the plane. Other aviation accidents occur when the pilot is under the influence of drugs or alcohol or when air traffic control does not provide proper guidance to the plane in flight.  Knowing your rights following an aviation accident is essential to preserve your ability to retain full compensation for your injuries and other damages following aviation accident.  Typically, an investigation into aircraft accident takes multiple months, which requires victims to adhere to certain policies, procedures, and approaches when attempting to file suit successfully against liable parties.

Airport Liability

A survey of aviation accidents was conducted for accidents occurring from 1950 to 2006 of over 1,800 aviation accidents and the following information regarding the precipitating factors were gathered:

  • 53%: Pilot error
  • 21%: Mechanical failure
  • 11%: Weather
  • 8%: Other human error, such as air traffic controller error, improper loading of aircraft, improper maintenance, fuel contamination, and forms of miscommunication
  • 6%: Criminal or terrorist activity
  • 1%: Other causes

The survey conducted did not include military aircraft, private aircraft, or private chartered aircraft accidents, but only included information released regarding commercial airline flights. Other studies have been conducted for aviation accidents that show the same results, with flight crew error or pilot error being the main reason for aviation accidents.  Typically, private aircraft flights resulting in accidents are primarily caused by pilot error, and the NTSB and FAA always look into the cause of any aviation accident, especially one involving injuries or fatalities.

Aviation Law

Aviation law is the body of law governing flight and air travel. In most instances, aviation law encompasses international law, because most flights travel from one country to another across the globe. The Federal Aviation Administration governs aviation law in the United States while the International Civil Aviation Organization provides general rules and mediates international aviation affairs across the globe. This organization is an entity of the United Nations.

How to Protect Your Legal Rights

There is no other advocate more supportive to your claims than your aviation accident attorney.  Immediately following an accident, private companies may attempt to limit their liability by preying on your lack of knowledge of aviation accident law.  Avoid making any statements regarding the incident to anyone without the presence of your attorney.  Make sure your medical care, injuries, and other health concerns are well documented by the attending healthcare professionals, as well as retain these documents in a safe place.  Other inquiries into the events of the crash can be requested of other passengers, which may prove beneficial to your attorney when filing suit.  Filing claims follows a strict timeframe for most incidents, and if you hesitate too long, you may greatly reduce or nullify your ability to collect damages following an aviation accident.


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