Who can be Held Liable in an Aviation Accident?

John Caswell and Stephen Fox had flown planes thousands of hours, but federal records say that neither of them was certified to fly the Dassault Falcon 50 jet that killed both of them in a recent accident. Two of their passengers were also injured.

Pilots earn their certifications from the FAA once they have completed a certain number of hours of training for specific aircraft. Neither of them had training for that kind of jet. The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the accident.

Airport officials where the accident occurred reported that the jet appeared to land normally, but then slid off the end of the runway and fell down a steep embankment. Visibility did not play a role in the accident.

Authorities said the two passengers on board were a married couple but have not released their names or where they live. The flight began at St. Petersburg, but the originating airport has not been named.

Small Plane Accidents and Liability

Unfortunately, accidents involving small planes are much more common than we think. Luckily, not every accident involving small planes is fatal. Oftentimes the occupants of the plane survive, but sustain serious injuries. Fatal or not, someone is responsible for the accident and should be held liable.

The attorneys at Brill & Rinaldi know exactly the things that are needed to prove liability in a small plane accident and can pursue the compensation that you deserve. Any time a plane crashes, the National Transportation Safety Board investigates the accident. They will collect information from the scene and make a determination about the cause of the accident. This information will be used by your legal team to prove liability.

Causes of Aviation Accidents

Although plane crashes can be the result of a variety of factors, some of the most common include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Pilot Error: If a pilot does not meet their duty to operate the plane in a safe and reasonable manner, of if they fail to have the proper certifications for the aircraft they are flying as in the case above, they can be held liable for the resulting accident.
  • Faulty Design: When a plane is designed incorrectly, the poor design can lead to issues with staying in flight or mechanical issues.
  • Maintenance Failures: This type of failure occurs when the owner of the plane does not maintain the aircraft, or when the maintenance is completed, it is done in a faulty manner.
  • Poor Communication: When an aircraft operates, the pilot must have strict communication with ground control. If either of them fails to communicate, or ground control gives the wrong information, a crash may be the result.

Who can be Held Liable?

Regardless of the cause of the crash, someone is liable. Depending on the cause, it could be more than one person who is liable. For example, in some accidents it could be both the ground control and the pilot who are responsible. In other cases, it could be the owner of the plane or the manufacturer who failed to maintain the plane or designed it poorly. Below is a list of who may be held liable in the event of an aviation accident:

  • Manufacturer: Any time a product is determined to be defective, it is the manufacturer that can be held liable for any accidents or injuries that were caused by the defective product. This is called strict liability and applies to aviation products as well as nearly any other product.
  • Common Carrier: Commercial airlines have to follow very strict standards because they are advertised as common carriers to the public. The FAA is in charge of these standards and they are much more stringent than those of private carriers.
  • Owner/Operator: If an aircraft owner is found to be reckless when operating a plane, then that owner will typically be held liable for any accidents and injuries caused. A pilot may also be held liable under vicarious liability, which is when an employer is held liable for the actions of their employees.

What Legal Claims can be Made?

Although there are many claims that may be made, below are a few of them that may apply when an aviation accident occurs:

  • Vicarious Liability: This is when an employer is held liable for employees’ actions when they are acting within the scope of their employment.
  • Strict Liability: In the event of a product liability claim, the defendant who put the product into the stream of commerce may be held responsible for any damages or injuries that the product causes.
  • Negligence: In this type of case, the defendant owes a duty of care to the plaintiff, or victim. If the defendant breached their duty of care and the plaintiff was injured, this means that the defendant’s negligence caused a breach in that duty of care.
  • Federal Tort Claims Act: This act enables private citizens to file claims against the federal government and any of its employees for torts that are committed during the scope of federal employment.
  • Florida Tort Claims Act: This is a state of Florida version of the same act that allows for private citizens to sue the government of Florida and any employees for torts that were committed during the scope of their employment. In this case, the state could be responsible if their employee met the following conditions. The injury has to be the result of an act of negligence, the injury can be compensated for financially, and the employee would have been held liable as a private citizen.

Consult a Florida Personal Injury Attorney

If you or your loved one was injured or died in an aviation accident, you may be entitled to file a personal injury claim and be compensated for your injuries. The attorneys at Brill & Rinaldi have decades of experience helping their clients recover the damages to which they are entitled. They will review your situation and make a determination as to the best legal course of action to take. Contact them today to schedule a consultation.