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Who Can Be Held Liable in an Aviation Accident

June 2, 2022 Personal injury

Individuals who survive an aviation accident have the right to recover compensation for their losses. However, determining who is liable can be complicated and will depend on the cause of the accident. Here are the parties commonly named defendants in aviation accident claims that may be liable. 

The Airline

The airline company is considered a common carrier because they offer transportation services to the public. Methods of public transportation are regulated under both federal and state common carrier laws. As a result, common carriers are expected to exercise a heightened degree of caution when it comes to the safety of passengers. They must do everything they can to reduce the risk of injuries and can be liable when they or an employee violates that standard of care. When an accident occurs, families are almost always likely to recover compensation from the airline and its insurance carrier even if another party was also liable.

The Pilot

If the pilot’s negligence or error contributed to or was entirely responsible for the aviation accident, they may be held accountable for damages. Pilots must extend an acceptable standard of care to passengers and operate the plane safely. Examples of negligence that may prove a pilot’s liability include: 

  • Failure to conduct necessary safety checks and procedures
  • Miscommunicating with air traffic control
  • Navigation errors
  • Failure to safely manage fuel
  • Failure to accurately monitor speed, altitude, velocity, location, and other critical parameters
  • Failure to comply with traffic patterns
  • Inaccurately using flight equipment
  • Inaccurately evaluating weather conditions

Inexperience or a lack of training can also contribute to pilot error that causes an accident. 

The Plane’s Manufacturer

A claim against the plane’s manufacturer would fall under California product liability law. Under this law, manufacturers have a duty of care to prevent injury or damage from faulty or defective products. As a result, a plane’s manufacturer may be liable if the accident was caused entirely or in part due to a manufacturing defect, design defect, or defective warning. 

The Owner of the Plane

If the owner of the plane differs from the operator, they may be liable for an accident if they had some degree of control over the maintenance and operation of the aircraft. For example, failure to properly maintain the plane, failure to fix a known dangerous condition or one they should have known about, or failure to ensure the operator had the proper credentials and appropriate training. 

Compensation Available in Aviation Accident Cases

After an aviation accident, a California aviation accident attorney can help you by investigation to determine which parties are liable. Once your attorney has gathered enough evidence to move forward with your claim, you have the right to hold the at-fault parties accountable for your losses, which may include:

  • Medical Bills: The cost of your initial medical treatment and expected costs for future care you may require, such as physical therapy, prescription medications, surgeries, home modifications, etc. 
  • Lost Income: Compensation for your current and future lost wages and benefits because of your injury.
  • Property Damage: If any of your personal belongings were damaged or destroyed in the accident.
  • Diminished Earning Capacity: If your injury has affected your ability to earn an income in the future.
  • Pain and Suffering: Compensation for the physical pain you have had to endure and any emotional distress (e.g., depression, anxiety, insomnia, PTSD, etc.)
  • Loss of Enjoyment of Life: The impact your injury will have on your overall quality of life.
  • Punitive Damages: Additional compensation that is only awarded to punish a defendant (at-fault party) who acted with malice or gross negligence. 

The more severe, debilitating, and long-lasting your injury is, the more compensation you are likely to receive.