We don’t hear much in the news about aviation accident lawsuits.
There’s a reason for that... it’s because although a large plane crash is newsworthy and often results in mass casualties, it’s also very rare. The majority of aviation lawsuits are not related to plane crashes. They are because of injuries that happen because of a slip and fall, injuries related to luggage or cargo, or runway accidents that never make the news.
You might remember a notable tragedy that happened in Kentucky in 2006. On August 27th, 2006, Comair Flight 5191 departed Lexington’s Blue Grass Airport in Fayette County bound for Atlanta, Georgia.
While such tragedies are shocking and devastating, occupants of small private planes are far more likely to suffer crash-related injuries based on aviation statistics. In July 2021, a 2-seater plane crashed in Lexington. In that instance, the plane hit a power pole and the 2 occupants suffered minor injuries.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) lists pilot error, bad weather, and aircraft malfunction or mechanical failure as the main causes of aviation accidents.
Additional top causes of general aviation accidents include:
A pilot is required to have a minimum of 40 hours’ flight experience in order to become licensed. Licensing also includes a medical exam, knowledge test, flight test, and TSA authorization.
When a pilot makes a mistake while flying a plane, it doesn’t always mean they didn’t know how to fly. Sometimes, a mechanical malfunction can be handled mid-flight, but an inexperienced pilot or one who isn’t familiar with that specific aircraft might not be able to successfully and quickly respond to the problem.
Think of it this way:
Have you ever made a mistake while driving a car?
Even an experienced driver makes the occasional poor judgment when behind the wheel, and piloting a plane is no different. Perhaps you’ve taken a turn too quickly or misjudged another vehicle’s speed — these things happen when driving a car and flying a plane is no different.
A large jetliner will usually climb to a high enough altitude to avoid a severe storm brewing below. But a small plane doesn’t always have this ability and therefore is much more likely to have problems in bad weather, like poor visibility or a lightning strike that could cause electrical failure.
If a small plane needs to perform an emergency landing in a rural or unprepared area, it could likely do so successfully. But a commercial jetliner likely can’t because of its size and speed. Even experienced pilots are limited if a plane’s equipment fails.
Many aviation crashes involve small planes, but there are rare cases involving large commercial aircraft crashes like TWA Flight 128 and Air Canada Flight 797.
Sometimes, a plane will encounter turbulence or come to a sudden stop on the runway, and even though the plane doesn’t crash, passengers could be jostled or bumped around in the cabin.
You might suffer an injury by bumping your head against the window or a seat. There have also been minor injuries from tray tables that were not correctly secured, or there could even be injuries related to items falling out of overhead storage bins.
Passengers can also suffer injuries from slip and fall accidents on a flight. This could happen while walking to the bathroom, or while boarding or deplaning. The airline staff is responsible for cleaning up any spills or anything that would make the floor slippery, as well as clearing any debris that could cause a falling hazard.
It’s the flight crew’s responsibility to ensure that passengers are not injured from these types of situations, including injuries from food carts and other foreseeable hazards.
Another possible hazard we hear about is injuries from passenger behavior. There are instances when a passenger might become physically aggressive or have an altercation with either another passenger or with a member of the flight crew. The airline can’t control a passenger’s behavior, but liability will hinge on whether the airline took necessary precautions to foresee and prevent an injury.
An airline or airport employee who is injured while performing tasks related to their job could be eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits. Unlike railroad employees, who are eligible only for Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA) benefits, airline employees are eligible for the same workers’ comp benefits as any other worker in any industry.
The likelihood of being injured as an airline or airport employee depends on the nature of your job. A flight attendant or baggage handler is more likely than a ticket agent, for example, to strain their back while lifting heavy items.
A workers’ compensation claim does not require you to prove negligence. One of the benefits of workers’ compensation is that it is a no-fault system, which means the plaintiff (the injured worker) does not need to prove that anyone was negligent in order to recover benefits. They only need to prove that the injury happened at work.
A personal injury lawsuit is usually based on suing a person (or company) who caused an injury by negligence. In a plane-related injury, this is most likely to fall into 1 of 2 categories:
Plane crash (or injury) survivors can recover 3 types of damages:
If someone is killed in a plane crash, their surviving family members (the spouse and children or parents and heirs if there is no spouse or children) can recover the following compensation by filing a wrongful death lawsuit:
In 1994, American Eagle Flight 4184 crashed in a soybean field in Roselawn, Indiana. Families of crash victims were angered by the lack of timely information provided to them after the accident and their activism led to the passage of the Aviation Disaster Family Assistance Act.
The purpose of the Aviation Disaster Family Assistance Act is to provide support to families of passengers involved in commercial aviation accidents.
Under the Act, the NTSB must carry out a number of duties, such as:
If you were injured in an aviation accident, either as a passenger, employee, or bystander on the ground, you should consult a Kentucky plane accident lawyer to learn your options for filing a claim or lawsuit to cover the costs of your injuries.