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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.


While the number of aviation accidents has dropped over the years, the number of deaths resulting from these accidents remains high. Information below provided by the Aircraft Crashes Record Office (ACRO):

  • 2010– 130 accidents resulting in 1,115 deaths
  • 2009– 122 accidents resulting in 1,103 deaths
  • 2008– 156 accidents resulting in 884 deaths
  • 2007– 147 accidents resulting in 971 deaths
  • 2006– 166 accidents resulting in 1,294 deaths
  • 2005– 185 accidents resulting in 1,459 deaths


There are dozens of factors that could lead to an aviation accident- some common causes are outlined below. Information below provided by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

  • 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.

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. The following entities may be liable for aviation accidents:


  • 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 and 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.


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