Fortunately, major airline accidents are not a regularly occurring event, but because the planes are so large when an airline accident does happen, it is usually catastrophic. Protecting the rights of accident victims and their families is a detail-oriented process, requiring an attorney who is not only familiar with all of the laws and regulations relating to airline accidents, but also with the operation, maintenance, and mechanics of aircraft involved. In truth, especially in the case of large commercial aircraft, most cases classified as an “airline accident” actually occur as the result of negligence or errors made by one or more individuals.
The sheer number of potential victims in an airline accident can be overwhelming, and carriers and their insurance providers may rush to make settlements as quickly as possible following an airline accident. Victims and their families should always refuse to accept any monies or to sign any paperwork without first reviewing the circumstance with an attorney who has experience in representing victims of airline accidents. In most cases, the amount initially offered by the airline or their insurers is far below the amount to which victims are actually entitled, and by accepting funds or agreeing to any other type of arrangement, victims may waive their right to later recovery.
Persons who may be entitled to compensation in the wake of an airline accident include passengers, family members of victims, persons injured on the ground (or their family members of persons killed on the ground), and the pilot if it is proved that pilot error was not the sole cause of the airline accident. Those most frequently named as defendants include the pilot and other members of the crew, the airline owner(s), manufacturers, persons responsible for maintenance and safety, and air traffic controllers. Under certain circumstances, litigation stemming from an airline accident can name the FAA, even the federal government as defendants.
The web of laws, regulations, international treaties, and other technicalities that surround airline accidents and the resulting legal battles require in-depth knowledge to ensure that victims and their families are properly represented, that the case is fully investigated and the proper compensation received. Victims of airline accidents must generally file their claims within six months to a year after the date of the incident, a deadline which can be difficult to focus on if the victim is deceased or hospitalized. It is crucial that airline accident victims contact an attorney as soon as possible. The party or parties responsible for the accident are also legally obligated to pay certain costs associated with the airline accident, often including hospital bills, future treatment, lost wages (past and future), pain and suffering, and occasionally, punitive damages. An attorney who is experienced in representing victims of airline accidents can help you to understand your legal rights and work with you to make the best decisions for yourself and your family.