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Frequently Asked Questions About Aviation Litigation

Who is most commonly the responsible party in an aviation case?

Responsibility varies depending on the circumstances, but liability for a tragic aviation incident commonly falls on one or more of the following parties: the owner of the aircraft; the pilot; the manufacturer or designer of the aircraft or one of its component parts; air traffic control; a maintenance or service provider; or a leasing company.

Who plays a role in the investigation?

While CaseyGerry conducts its own investigation using a team of experts, several federal agencies also conduct investigations following crashes or other incidents involving aircraft safety.

The primary agency involved is the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) which is a federal agency that investigates a wide variety of transportation-related crashes or safety problems, including those involving aircraft. The NTSB normally takes control of any wreckage or remains of an aircraft involved in a crash, and releases it to any parties involved in aviation accident litigation only after the government’s investigation is concluded. There are times the NTSB investigation takes years to complete.

What is the NTSB and its role?

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is an independent federal agency. It is responsible for investigating every civil aviation crash or significant safety-related incident in the United States – and charged with determining the probable cause, promoting safety, and assisting victims and their families. The NTSB often photographs defects, tests products, or conducts simulations in order to determine the probable cause of an incident.

What is the FAA and its role?

The Federal Aviation Act of 1958 created the Federal Aviation Agency. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) adopted its present name in 1967 when it became a part of the Department of Transportation. The agency’s major roles include:

  • Regulating civil aviation to promote safety
  • Encouraging and developing civil aeronautics, including new aviation technology
  • Developing and operating a system of air traffic control and navigation for both civil and military aircraft
  • Researching and developing the National Airspace System and civil aeronautics
  • Developing and carrying out programs to control aircraft noise and other environmental effects of civil aviation
  • Regulating U.S. commercial space transportation

What is the sterile cockpit rule?

The sterile cockpit rule was first introduced in 1981 by the FAA after a series of incidents caused by flight crews becoming distracted by unnecessary conversations and activities during the flight.

Federal statutes, including Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR) 121.542 and 135.100 state that:

  • “No certificate holder shall require, nor may any flight crewmember perform, any duties during a critical phase of flight except those duties required for the safe operation of the aircraft.”
  • “No flight crewmember may engage in, nor may any pilot in command permit, any activity during a critical phase of flight which could distract any flight crewmember from the performance of his or her duties or which could interfere in any way with the proper conduct of those duties.”
  • “Critical phases of flight include all ground operations involving taxi, takeoff and landing, and all other flight operations conducted below 10,000 feet, except cruise flight.”

What are the most common causes of a plane crash?

According to recent statistics, the five most common causes are pilot error; mechanical failure; weather; sabotage; and human error including mistakes by air traffic controllers, dispatchers, fuelers, or engineers.

What are different types of aviation cases?

There are two basic types: commercial aviation cases involving companies who transport passengers for a fee and general aviation cases involving privately-owned aircraft.

What kind of insurance do aircraft operators carry?

With “general aviation” – involving smaller, privately-owned aircraft – the minimum coverage is typically $100,000 per passenger. Commercial aviation policies vary, but are regulated by FAA standards.

Is there a statute of limitations with aviation claims?

There are timing and venue factors which are important in aviation lawsuits. While there is no statute of limitations specific to aviation accident cases, there may be various statutes of limitations that apply, depending on the type of liability involved. Time periods also may vary depending on the jurisdiction involved in the accident.

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