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Aviation Accidents

Helping Aircraft Crash Victims

Each year, hundreds of people are killed and thousands more are injured in aviation accidents. Victims of these accidents face a number of difficult tasks — one of them is navigating their way through the legal issues involved with receiving compensation for their injuries. Hiring an aviation accident attorney may be useful in providing essential help for victims and their families during these trying times.

According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), there were 1,290 civil aviation accidents in the United States in 2014. Of these accidents, 265 were fatal, resulting in 444 deaths. The majority of these aviation accidents (94.7 percent) were categorized as general aviation aircraft, which includes:

  • Fixed-wing planes
  • Helicopters
  • Gliders
  • Balloons
  • Blimps
  • Gyrocrafts
  • Powered parachutes

In 2014, only 68 (5.3 percent) of the aviation accidents involved aircraft categorized as commercial air carriers or private, commuter/on-demand planes. However, when the unimaginable happens on a large aircraft — during takeoff or landing, in the air, or taxiing — serious injuries and death often follows.

Aviation accidents may be rare, but you and your loved ones deserve to be represented by a personal injury firm with the resources and determination to take on the largest airline companies in the world if tragedy strikes.

WHO CAN BE HELD LIABLE IN AN AVIATION ACCIDENT?

Liability is largely dependent on the cause of the accident. For example, if the accident was caused by traffic control, the federal government could be liable, as they are responsible for air traffic control. If you were injured or a loved was was killed in an accident involving an aircraft, the following entities may be held accountable:

  • Pilot
    • If the pilot’s negligence caused the accident, he/she may be liable. The same is true for the pilot’s employer.
  • The owner of the aircraft
    • Even if the owner was not piloting the plane at the time of the accident, they can be sued for “vicarious liability.” The owner may be liable for negligence in hiring an ill-trained pilot or for supplying a defective airplane.
  • Manufacturer of the plane
    • If the crash occurred because of an equipment defect, the manufacturer of the plane may be to blame. This would fall into the category of “product liability” or “strict liability.”
  • Federal government
    • The federal government, through the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is responsible for Air Traffic Control. If an aviation accident is caused by an air traffic control error, the liability may lie with the FAA.

AVIATION ACCIDENT STATISTICS

While the number of aviation accidents has dropped over the years, the number of deaths resulting from these accidents remains high. The Aircraft Crashes Record Office (ACRO) records statistics on aviation crashes across the world involving aircraft carrying more than six passengers (not including helicopters, balloons, and combat aircraft). The following information regarding fatal aviation crashes is provided by ACRO:

  • 2016 — 102 accidents, resulting in 629 deaths
  • 2015 — 122 accidents, resulting in 898 deaths
  • 2014 — 122 accidents, resulting in 1,328 deaths
  • 2013 — 139 accidents, resulting in 459 deaths
  • 2012 — 156 accidents, resulting in 800 deaths
  • 2011 — 155 accidents, resulting in 828 deaths

According to ACRO, there have already been eight aviation accidents resulting in 88 fatalities in 2017 so far.

COMMON CAUSES OF PLANE CRASHES AND EXAMPLES

There are dozens of factors that could lead to an aviation accident. Oftentimes it is the culmination of several factors that leads to a deadly accident. According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), here are common causes of aviation accidents with examples:

  • Hazardous cargo (cargo that can catch fire)
    • 1996- A plan headed to Florida caught fire and crashed, killing all 110 on board. The fire was initiated by chemical oxygen generators which were being improperly carried as cargo.
  • Crew resource management (miscommunication between crew members)
    • 2006- Crew members attempted to take off from a runway that was too small for the plane; it crashed, killing all 47 passengers and two crew members.
  • Fuel exhaustion (running out of fuel due to human error or fuel leak)
    • 1978- A United Airlines plane attempting to land experienced a landing gear malfunction and stayed in the air to troubleshoot. The plane ran out of fuel and crashed, killing 10 and critically injuring 23.
  • Fuel tank ignition (fire in the fuel tank)
    • 1996- A Boeing airplane caught fire after a fuel tank explosion. All 230 on board were killed. The source of ignition was never found.
  • Inclement weather (unsafe weather conditions)
    • 1994- Icy conditions led to an American Eagle plane crash that killed 4 crew members and 64 passengers.
  • Incorrect piloting techniques (mistakes made by pilots)
    • 2002- A pilot used a reverse-thrust technique in direct violation of aircraft policy- a malfunction occurred that caused the plane to crash, killing 19 of the 22 on board.
  • Midair/ground, Landing/takeoff excursions (when two planes collide)
    • 1991- A plane touching down on the runway collided with a plane on the ground; all 12 passengers and crew members were killed on one flight, 22 on the other.
    • The crash was blamed on improper Air Traffic Control.
  • Pressurization/decompression failures (a loss of cabin pressure)
    • 1989- United Airlines flight lost all pressure when the cabin door opened in flight, caused by a mechanical defect.
  • Structural failure (When the plane comes apart)
    • 2001- American Airlines flight crashed when part of the aircraft detached from the plane. All 260 people on board and five people on the ground died in the crash.
    • The structural failure was caused by the first officer’s “unnecessary and excessive rudder pedal inputs.”
  • Uncontained engine failure
    • 1996-Delta Air Lines Flight 1288 experienced engine failure during the initial part of its takeoff roll due to uncontained engine debris.
    • Two passengers were killed and two others were seriously injured.
  • Uncontrolled fire
    • 1999- While passing through Canadian airspace, a plane leaving New York experienced a fire above the flight deck ceiling.
    • The airplane crashed and all 215 passengers and 14 crew members were killed.
  • Wind-shear
    • 1985- A plane leaving Dallas encountered a microburst while attempting to pass through a storm cell. The aircraft touched down in a field, bounced, struck a car on a highway and broke apart.
    • Of the 163 persons aboard, 134 passengers and crewmembers were killed at the scene as was the driver of the car and two passengers.

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