Generally, airplanes are considered a safe means of transportation in Los Angeles, but when accidents occur, they often end with fatal results. Relatively, aviation accidents involving large aircraft such as commercial airline jets seldom happen compared to the number of accidents involving smaller, private aircraft, which are more frequent than most people realize because most of these airline incidents are unreported.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) air travel is expected to double over the next 20 years. As air traffic increases, the risk of an aviation accident also rises.
Aviation accident law covers both major air carrier and general aviation accidents. General aviation includes all non-commercial aircraft including small plans, large business jets, charter flights, pleasure crafts, helicopters, and hang gliders.
Types of Aviation Accidents
Airplane accidents include not only crashes, but also incidents on planes that cause injuries, such as falling baggage, assaults, and other related incidents.
The types of accidents that can cause injury to passengers and crew include:
o Crashes and collisions
o Accidents occurring on the runway and during transport to and from planes
o Accidents due to air traffic control error and miscommunication
o Shifting baggage during flight or on the runway falling on people
o Pilot negligence
o Mechanical failure
Liability in Aviation Accidents
Determining who is at fault in an aviation accident will often require the skills and knowledge of an experienced aviation accident lawyer.
In aviation accidents that occurred in Los Angeles, liable parties vary depending on the cause of the accident. The owner and operator of the aircraft and the manufacturers or maintenance suppliers may be held liable; even the federal government may bear some responsibility in an aircraft accident.
Vicarious Liability – Owner or Operator
If carelessness or recklessness can be proven, aircraft owners and operators will be held liable for the damages suffered by injured parties, including passengers, people on the ground, and even the pilot during an accident. If the aircraft was being operated by another person but not the owner when the accident occurred, the owner may still be held liable under a legal theory called vicarious liability.
Strict Liability – Manufacturer
The manufacturer of an aircraft can be held liable if the victim of an accident can prove that a defect in the product (the aircraft) or a component part caused his or her injuries. This is referred to as strict liability. It is important to remember that liability laws differ from state to state.
Comparative Fault – Both the Owner/Operator and the Manufacturer
In many cases, both the pilot and the manufacturer are held liable for an aircraft accident. This is called comparative fault. The jury must determine the percentage of liability attributable to each of the defendants. For example, a pilot may be 35 percent at fault for losing control of an aircraft, but the manufacturer may be 65 percent at fault for defective landing gear. Most states use comparative fault and distribute the blame between the two parties.
Liability of the Federal Government
Air traffic control is a primary duty of the federal government, which is under the responsibility of the FAA through the Air Traffic Control System (ATC). If an aircraft accident involves a collision, the ATC may be held accountable and included in the case as a defendant in litigation.
Common Carriers Liability
Commercial airlines fall under the legal classification of a common carrier and governed by a different, more stringent, standards than are private carriers. Common commercial airline are under the FAA’s responsibility being the principle federal agency tasked with regulating air carriers and imposing standards, operating procedures, and monitoring the aircraft. Finding liability of common carriers will need an understanding of the complex rules and regulations.
The Role of Lawyers in Aviation Accidents
Personal injury cases involving airplanes require the expertise of Los Angeles aviation accident lawyers. Aviation litigation is complex and often involves an analysis of state, federal, and potentially international law. Aviation accident cases also involve several issues that could affect the outcome of litigation: the parties that may be named as defendants, questions of venue, aviation engineering, industry standards and federal government rules and regulations. In this case, it would be better to leave the matter to the care of an experienced aviation accident lawyer.