Frequently Asked Questions
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Plane Crashes

  1. Who is entitled to bring a lawsuit based on injuries or deaths stemming from airplane accidents?
  2. Do commercial airlines or companies that charge passengers to fly on their airplanes or helicopters owe a special duty of care to passengers?
  3. Does an airplane have to crash for the airline to be found responsible for injuries?
  4. Who can be held liable for airplane accidents?
  5. Are there any limitations on aviation accidents involving international flights?
  6. How can I prove that the airline or the pilot of the airplane was at fault when there are no surviving witnesses to the crash?
  7. What damages are recoverable in aviation accident cases?
  8. What are the leading causes of commercial aviation accidents?
  9. What are the leading causes of general aviation accidents?
  10. What is the time period in which an aviation accident case must be brought?
  11. Is it important to retain an attorney for my aviation accident case?
  12. What agencies are involved in the investigation of aviation accidents?
  13. Who do I call to get information immediately following an aviation accident?

Questions & Answers

Who is entitled to bring a lawsuit based on injuries or deaths stemming from airplane accidents?
Answer:
If the crash results in an injury to an individual, generally only that person may bring such a claim. If the crash results in death, the next of kin (blood relatives) of the crash victim may bring a claim. In Minnesota, such claims are brought through a trustee appointed by the court to act on behalf of all the next of kin.

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Do commercial airlines or companies that charge passengers to fly on their airplanes or helicopters owe a special duty of care to passengers?
Answer:
Yes, commercial aviation, charter, or helicopter companies owe the highest duty of care to their passengers, as they are what are called “common carriers.”

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Does an airplane have to crash for the airline to be found responsible for injuries?
Answer:
Not necessarily. If the pilot loses control of the plane and passengers are injured as a result, or if an airplane encounters severe turbulence that the airline knew of but didn’t warn passengers about, the airplane operator may be held liable

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Who can be held liable for airplane accidents?
Answer:
In the case of commercial flights on airlines, responsible parties would include the airline, manufacturer of the airplane, and air traffic controllers. In a case involving private (general aviation) crashes, responsible parties would include the pilot if the crash occurred due to pilot error, as well as the owner of the airplane, their insurer, and the plane’s manufacturer.

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Are there any limitations on aviation accidents involving international flights?
Answer:
Yes. Specific treaties may limit the recovery of victims of crashes involving international flights but there are numerous exceptions that apply to avoid these limitations

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How can I prove that the airline or the pilot of the airplane was at fault when there are no surviving witnesses to the crash?
Answer:
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 cockpit voice recorders and flight data recorders, which record what happened in the plane just before the crash. These can be invaluable in pinpointing the precise reason that a plane crashed. Other information, such a radar information, and careful investigation of the wreckage, will often tell investigators why a plane crashed.

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What damages are recoverable in aviation accident cases?
Answer:
Generally, if the person survives, the damages include pain and suffering, medical bills and loss of wages, both past and future. In the event of a death in an aviation crash, the relatives of the victim can recover damages for the loss of support the victim would have provided, funeral expenses, and damages for the aid, comfort, and society the decedent would have provided to the family members had he or she lived.

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What are the leading causes of commercial aviation accidents?
Answer:
  • uncontained engine failures
  • controlled flight into terrain
  • approach and landing
  • Loss of control
  • runway incursions
  • weather (including turbulence)

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What are the leading causes of general aviation accidents?
Answer:
  • controlled flight into terrain
  • weather
  • pilot decision-making
  • loss of control
  • survivability
  • runway incursions

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What is the time period in which an aviation accident case must be brought?
Answer:
The time period for bringing a suit arising out of a plane crash varies depending upon what law applies. In some of these, limitation periods can be quite short. It is important to contact an attorney as soon as possible.

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Is it important to retain an attorney for my aviation accident case?
Answer:
Yes, very much so. As noted above, the investigation of an aviation crash is complex and preserving the evidence that will tell the cause of the crash must occur immediately after the crash happens.

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What agencies are involved in the investigation of aviation accidents?
Answer:
Generally the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) will lead the investigation of any aviation crash. Members of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), local law enforcement authorities, and representatives of the manufacturer of the aircraft will assist them.

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Who do I call to get information immediately following an aviation accident?
Answer:
All aviation accidents are to be reported to the NTSB. The phone number for the NTSB Communications Center is (202) 314-6100. This is a good place to start. The NTSB will be able to provide some information, and to the extent answers are available, should be able to direct you to the answers you need. An experienced aviation attorney can help you gather critical information quickly.

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