Aviation Maintenance Liability: Inspections and Repairs

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Aviation maintenance involves working on private or commercial airplanes. To work on commercial airplanes, maintenance personnel must satisfy strict regulations and be certified by the FAA. Maintenance companies perform much of this maintenance. However, if you own your own plane, you may want to perform some of your own aviation maintenance or even your own aviation repairs. Alternatively, if you are an aircraft fan, you may wish to start a small company and perform maintenance on private aircrafts.

Before performing any sort of aviation maintenance, however, you must educate yourself on liability rules for those performing aviation maintenance.  The laws regarding the types of maintenance you can perform are strict, and in some cases, you can find yourself subject to liability should something go wrong with a plane you were maintaining

Aviation Maintenance Liability

Lawsuits against airplane maintenance personnel companies have become increasingly prevalent since the General Aviation Revitalization Act passed, precluding individuals from suing plane manufacturers or parts manufacturers for planes more than 18 years old. As a result of this limitation, those injured in an aircraft accident may go after the maintenance company if the aircraft owner cannot pay the bills.

While an individual person performing maintenance on someone else’s plane could be sued and found liable for negligence, if that person worked for a company and was acting in the scope of his job, the employer or company itself would generally be on-the-hook to foot the cost of litigation instead. In most cases, aircraft maintenance companies are heavily insured and this insurance will coverage liability form lawsuits that arise. Purchasing this insurance may be very expensive, however.

Regulations for Self Performing Maintenance

If you decide to do your own maintenance on a plane, you can also be held liable. In many cases, this is not legal unless you have a Repairman Certificate, Experimental Aircraft Builder or Light Sport Aircraft Owner Certificate. Even with these certifications, if you do much of the aviation maintenance or repairs yourself, your aircraft may be classified as an experimental aircraft as opposed to a certified aircraft. The airworthiness of an experimental aircraft is usually less sound than the airworthiness of a certified aircraft, so the law may limit the use of the plane and the liability for accidents may be far greater.

Insurance and Certification Requirements

If you are flying an aircraft or conducting maintenance on an aircraft, you should have aviation insurance to protect yourself from potential liability. Most aviation insurers will not insure any plane that has not undergone aviation inspections by an aviation inspector. In most cases, this certification must be obtained annually after an inspection by a licensed inspector.

While you cannot usually get insurance without certification of airworthiness issued by an experienced aviation inspector, certification alone will not necessarily protect you from liability. If you are performing maintenance on an aircraft and that maintenance or aviation repairs is potentially responsible for an accident, you may be liable regardless of the fact that the plane is certified.

Help from an Aviation Attorney

Before you begin performing aviation maintenance or aviation repairs, consult with an experienced aviation attorney to find out what your risks are. You should also have an experienced attorney review your insurance policy with you to determine whether it fully covers any liability you may incur when performing aviation maintenance. Finally, if you are injured on a plane and believe that faulty maintenance may have been the cause, It is essential that you speak to an attorney who can help you get the damages you deserve.