In general aviation accidents, the government investigators often send key parts (such as engines and instruments) to the manufacturers, to check them for possible defects that might have led to the crash. Theoretically, these parts are supposed to be under the surveillance and control of the government investigators all the time that they are on the premises of the manufacturer, but in reality, this is sometimes like putting the thieves in charge of the loot.
Experienced counsel can insure that evidence is preserved, that experts re-review the investigation of government agencies and manufacturers. For these reasons alone, experienced counsel is critical to the success of a victim’s claim.
As a general principle, the law applicable to disasters occurring on ground, and even upon the high seas, is applicable to disasters committed in the air or otherwise connected with the operation of aircraft. This principle has been codified in some states, including California.
It is incumbent upon counsel to determine in a given accident who was responsible
for the disaster itself. The National Transportation Safety Board has
estimated that approximately 83% of all general aviation accidents are
attributable to pilot error. Thus, in some cases involving injuries to
passengers , bystanders or property loss, the pilot, his estate and/or
employer could be primarily at fault. Whether there was negligent preflight
of the aircraft, negligent flight planning,
inadequate flight experience for conditions, or other error must all be considered by counsel.
In addition, counsel must consider the aircraft and component manufacturer. Product liability, the law which defines responsibilities of a manufacturer towards consumers and users of its products, often applies. An aircraft or airborne component manufacturer may be charged in strict liability, common law negligence and breach of warranty as may be any person or entity professionally involved in placing the aircraft or component into the stream of commerce.
An aircraft manufacturer may be liable for negligently designing or assembling this product. The choice of materials, the quantity and quality of testing and analysis, the adequacy or inadequacy of maintenance instructions, and any representations or warnings as to the use or abuse of the product may each constitute a theory upon which release can be granted.
The aviation industry is peculiar in that its products are tested and marketed under government supervision.
Experienced counsel must also examine the maintenance company involved in given cases. Persons and firms which conduct the inspection and repair of aircraft, aircraft engines, propellers and jets must be licensed and certified by the Federal Aviation Administration. Their failure to comply with applicable Federal Aviation Regulations may be negligence in and of itself.
Airlines in the military generally do their own maintenance, repair and overhaul. Occasionally it is performed by independent contractors who may be responsible for negligent maintenance and repair in a situation where such may be otherwise prohibited.
Most privately owned aircraft, large or small, are maintained by independent companies specializing in such work. They are clearly legally responsible for their failure professionally to inspect and repair equipment delegated to their charge.
The Federal Aviation Administration is responsible for the certification of aircraft and its components, the licensing of pilots and other aircrew, and for the surveillance of aircraft while in flight. A breach of these duties may be actionable under the Federal Tort Claims Act. Experienced counsel must likewise examine the role of the FAA in any given case.
Several cases have involved negligence of air traffic control personnel which recognize that the government has consented to be sued for the negligence of its controllers taking their control of aircraft in the air, when landing, taking off or taxiing at airports. Once the government undertakes to provide such service, it must exercise due care and will be responsible if it failed to utilize such care.
The foregoing are merely broad principles, many not applicable in every case. Experienced counsel must look far beyond these broad points in order to properly represent his/her clients.
If you or someone you know has been injured as the result of an airplane crash, you need the assistance of the Scarlett Law Group. Call (415) 688-2176 today to speak with a California Personal Injury Attorney.