What is an Airplane and Helicopter Accident Lawsuit?
An airplane and helicopter accident lawsuit is a legal action taken against one or more individuals or organizations liable for damages caused by injuries or fatalities. Airlines, pilots, common carriers, manufacturers, and others involved in aviation have a strict duty of care. When they fail to keep passengers safe, those victims may sue for damages.
There are different types of lawsuits you may file after an aviation accident, depending on the situation and who is liable:
- Personal Injury.
Many accidents result from one or more individual’s negligence. For instance, a careless pilot or an airline that failed to maintain equipment could be considered to have breached a duty of care for passengers. You can sue them for negligence.
- Wrongful Death.
The same is true if someone dies due to the negligence of a pilot, airline, manufacturer, or another liable party that caused the accident.
- Product Liability.
If you can show that a piece of equipment, an aircraft part, or other product involved in an accident was faulty, you can file a product liability suit. You must show that the product had a faulty design, a manufacturing error, or that the marketing failed to warn of risks.
- Federal Tort Claims.
Some cases may allow for a claim under the Federal Tort Claims Act. This law allows individuals to sue negligent federal employees. In the case of an aviation accident, you may be able to make a claim against a Federal Aviation Administration employee.
How Do I Know if I Have a Case?
Talk to a lawyer with experience in handling airplane and helicopter accident cases to determine if your case is valid and the chances of recovering damages. The laws governing these situations are multiple and complicated, so you need the advice of a firm or attorney with relevant experience. Most offer free case evaluations, so there is no risk in talking to a lawyer for advice.
Who Can I Sue After an Airplane or Helicopter Accident?
This is another aspect of an airplane and helicopter accident lawsuit that an experienced lawyer can help clarify. It may not be immediately obvious who is negligent or liable. There are several options:
- A pilot or owner of an aircraft or airline may be liable if they made negligent errors that led to the accident.
- An air traffic controller may have been negligent in directing aircraft, resulting in an accident.
- The common carrier—a commercial airline—may be negligent.
- The manufacturer of an aircraft or part that failed could be liable for your damages.
How Will My Lawyer Prove Negligence and Liability?
How your lawyer will prove negligence depends on the situation and the defendants. In the case of negligence, they must show that the defendant had a duty of care to act in a reasonable way, that they breached the duty, and that this directly resulted in your injuries and damages.
For example, if the owner of a helicopter failed to maintain equipment as required by safety guidelines, and this resulted in the accident, you can show they breached a duty of care and caused your injury and damages.
If the equipment or aircraft was faulty, you have a product liability case, which has a lower burden of proof. Your lawyer does not need to show the manufacturer was negligent, simply that the part or equipment had some type of defect that led to the accident.
What is My Case Worth?
A lawyer cannot guarantee you a win in a lawsuit. They also cannot provide an exact amount of damages you can expect to recover if you win. However, with experience in these types of lawsuits, they should be able to maximize damages and give you a reasonable estimate of what to expect. In general, damages in an aviation accident case can include:
- Current and future related medical expenses
- Long-term care and coverage for disability
- Lost wages until you can return to work
- Lost future earning capacity if you cannot work in the same job after the accident
- Non-economic damages for emotional and physical pain and suffering, permanent disability, and disfigurement
In wrongful death cases, damages may cover funeral expenses, emotional suffering for survivors, and lost earnings and support for surviving dependents, like children.
Is There a Time Limit on Airplane and Helicopter Accident Lawsuits?
Yes, there is a time limit on filing personal injury and product liability cases. The statute of limitations varies by state and may be just one year or as much as six years. You must file a Federal Tort Claims Act claim within two years of the incident.
How Do I File an Airplane and Helicopter Accident Lawsuit?
An airplane and helicopter accident lawsuit begins with hiring the right lawyer. Your lawyer will start the suit by filing a complaint to notify all the defendants involved. They will also investigate the incident and collect evidence and expert testimony to prove negligence or product liability.
The lawyers for the defendants may share information with your lawyer, and vice versa, during the discovery period. At this point, they are likely to be ready to negotiate. Your lawyer will try to get you a fair settlement, but if those efforts fail you will have to go to trial to recover damages.
A trial means that your lawyer will take your case before a judge and jury to argue that the defendants owe damages. Their lawyers will argue that they do not owe damages. The jury decides and awards the amount if they decide in your favor. The other side may appeal if you win, which further delays compensation.
Filing an airplane and helicopter accident lawsuit is a big step, but it may be the best way to recover damages after a devastating injury or personal loss. Let a lawyer specializing in these cases guide your decisions and take the steps for you to get a settlement or jury award.