Aviation law is a highly specialized field which requires that an attorney have years of experience, knowledge, and hopefully an engineering or piloting background to deal with the numerous issues and pitfalls involved. Only hire an attorney who meets these criteria.
Also, most importantly, if you or your loved one are injured or killed in a plane crash, hire that attorney immediately as there is no other area of the law where the evidence will disappear, be unavailable and compromised by the potential defendants. Your lawyer will get on the case immediately and protect your rights.
A private plane crash can be caused by numerous reasons including:
- negligently and defective design of the airplane;
- poor maintenance of the airplane;
- pilot error;
- air traffic control negligence; and
- weather among other things.
Sorting out what either individually or in combination cause the crash takes careful investigation and evaluation by experts in the field. An aviation attorney has such experts at their disposal for prompt investigation and evaluation.
While it is true that the National Transportation Safety Board or the Federal Aviation Administration will investigate the crash, their investigations are not always as thorough and as detailed as is required. They simply do not have the money or the manpower to do so.
Typically today, the insurance coverage for a passenger in a private aircraft is relatively small while the injuries are usually catastrophic. The policy of insurance is usually inadequate. Therefore, others who may be responsible must be looked to.
In 1993, President Clinton signed the General Aviation Revitalization Act which, among other things, states that a person may not sue a manufacture of a private aircraft after 18 years. There are exceptions to this rule based upon fraud to the government by the manufacturer or new parts installed in the older aircraft within the 18 years. It is thus important to always consult with the attorney immediately as the time may already be about to run.
Manufacturers and designers of aircraft have a high duty to comply with the minimum safety standards set forth in the Federal Aviation Regulations regarding that design. However, the Federal Aviation Regulations are only minimum standards and competent and non-negligent manufacturers may need to design their products to a higher level in order to prevent a crash or injuries. Skillful investigation into the cause of the crash will determine if the regulations have been violated or needed to be better designed.
Aircraft will also sometimes crash in water both lakes or the ocean. A whole other set of laws apply depending upon where the crash took place.
The pilot of the aircraft is also responsible to be both qualified, to have had recent experience, and to perform his duties of preflight inspection and flying the aircraft in a way that was not negligent and was reasonabley prudent under the circumstances. Many of the criteria defining the pilots duties is also found in the Federal Aviation Regulations. Failure to comply with the regulations would be negligence.