Frequently Asked Questions About Aviation Accidents
Are helicopter pilots bound by FAA regulations? Are there limits on how many hours a pilot can fly a plane? How can I discover who is at fault in a charter plane crash? Browse or search our FAQs for answers to common questions about aviation accidents.
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Could my airplane injury have been caused by an FAA violation?
One of the reasons commercial flights are the safest forms of travel is because the airline industry is heavily regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The FAA sets forth various safety requirements that commercial carriers and pilots must follow in order to operate in the United States—and countless passengers may be injured or killed if even one of these provisions is violated.
FAA Violations That Can Lead to Aviation Injuries
After any plane crash or in-flight incident, it’s critical to determine whether federal regulations were violated. Even if the FAA performs its own investigation, you will need an experienced aviation law attorney to investigate on your behalf.
Aviation accidents can be the result of FAA violations, especially those involving:
- Pilot errors. Pilots on private planes and commercial aircraft both have a duty to follow all FAA regulations before, during, and after the flight. If a pilot deliberately failed to follow an air traffic controller’s instructions, was under the influence of drugs or alcohol while operating an aircraft, or otherwise placed passengers at risk, he or she could be held personally liable for an accident (and potentially lose his or her pilot’s license).
- A mechanical problem. The FAA may examine copies of the aircraft’s historical records to determine if the craft was airworthy. If a known issue with the engine, electrical systems, or other components played a role in the accident, the manufacturer of defective aircraft components might share liability with the commercial airline.
- Airline negligence. Commercial air carriers are required to report any in-flight incidents to the FAA, even if they do not cause injury. Unfortunately, some airlines may engage in unsafe practices or policies, such as failing to report known mistakes, attempting to cover up an incident, or implementing cost-cutting measures that compromise safety.
At GriffithLaw, we conduct a thorough investigation to determine who is responsible for your airline injury—and we do not collect any legal fees unless we recover compensation for you. Simply fill out the short contact form on this page to set up your no-cost injury consultation, or learn more about your rights in our free guide, The 10 Worst Mistakes You Can Make With Your Tennessee Injury Case.
What are the most common causes of injuries on airplanes?
Aviation accidents can occur at any point between takeoff and landing, and not all injuries are the result of a crash. Even if the plane makes it from point A to point B safely, passengers and crew members can suffer a variety of painful and even life-altering injuries that can cause suffering for decades after the incident.
Common In-Flight Injuries Suffered on Airplanes
In-flight accidents are common on commercial airlines, but they also frequently occur on small aircrafts such as corporate jets, charter flights, or helicopters. Aviation laws give injury victims the right to file lawsuits against the airline, its employees, or even the manufacturer of a defective component of the aircraft for the effects of a serious injury.
The most common causes of aviation injuries during a flight include:
- Turbulence. Turbulence plays a role in the majority of injuries sustained while an aircraft is in flight. Even small changes in altitude can cause the plane to shake or drop suddenly, and the unpredictable nature of turbulence can lead to passengers hitting their heads against windows, tripping or falling on the way to the restroom, or even being thrown from their seats into the hard surfaces of the cabin. Turbulence injuries may range from scrapes or bruises to twisted ankles and broken bones.
- Luggage. Luggage falling from overhead baggage compartments causes thousands of injuries every year, a number of which may increase as airlines continue to charge for each piece of checked luggage. Overhead baggage compartments may suddenly spring open during flight as a result of turbulence, faulty latches, a cabin crew’s failure to store items safely, or merely as a result of overloading the compartment. Passengers seated underneath the compartment door may suffer broken noses, facial lacerations, or collarbone injuries when struck by carry-on items, while those struck by heavy luggage may suffer concussions or skull fractures that lead to traumatic brain injuries. A severe blow to the head may require extensive treatment, cause memory loss and irreversible personality changes, and prevent the victim from returning to his or her normal life.
- Adverse medical events. If a passenger or crew member suffers a heart attack, stroke, or other medical emergency during a flight, the pilot should make every effort to provide lifesaving treatment—including landing the plane before the final destination. The pilot should communicate any in-flight medical emergencies to ground staff—and if the crew does not have adequate equipment or medical staff on board, the pilot should be able to divert the plane. Airlines may be held liable for the mishandling of a medical emergency even if the airline did not cause the original event.
- Food service. Food services may be necessary on long flights, but they can also carry injury risks. A food or drink cart that has not been properly secured may roll forward, striking the arms or legs of passengers who are seated on the aisle. Spoiled or uncooked meals may cause passengers to suffer food poisoning, while the presence of nuts or other allergens can lead to adverse reactions and anaphylactic shock. Finally, a failure to provide food in a timely manner can cause passengers with diabetes to experience low blood sugar or insulin shock, leading to a diabetic coma.
Commercial airlines may not be able to guarantee the safety of their passengers, but they do have a heightened duty of care while transporting passengers. A commercial carrier can be held responsible for any injuries caused by the negligence of its employees and pilots, or if its standard operating procedures unnecessarily place passengers at risk.
If you were injured while traveling by plane, we can conduct a thorough investigation to determine who is responsible for your suffering—and we do not collect any legal fees unless we secure you the compensation you deserve. Simply fill out the short contact form on this page to set up your no-cost injury consultation, or learn more about your rights in our free guide, The 10 Worst Mistakes You Can Make With Your Tennessee Injury Case.
What is the Aviation Disaster Family Assistance Act?
A major airline disaster can be harrowing for the family members of the victims. Families may endure constant exposure to crash footage on the news, deal with reporters and life insurance companies, all while waiting to hear any news of the survivors. In order to treat victims and their relatives with respect, the federal government created the Aviation Disaster Family Assistance Act of 1996 to provide support services to the families of victims of commercial airplane accidents.
Benefits and Rights of Relatives After a Major Airplane Crash
It can take some time to determine what caused an airplane to crash, and representatives of several agencies may conduct investigations into the accident. The federal National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is legally bound to investigate commercial aircraft disasters, but the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) may also be involved in examining the crash site.
During this time, the airline and the NTSB have certain duties to the relatives of crash victims under the Aviation Disaster Family Assistance Act, including:
- Communication. The NTSB must designate an independent, nonprofit organization to coordinate information services for the victims' families and the disaster survivors. This may include communicating with foreign governments, performing translation services for family members, and providing a daily briefing for families on the status of the investigation.
- Safe space. Families have a right to their time to grieve without being contacted by members of the press, insurance companies, representatives of the airline, and other parties. Surviving victims and the families of those who died are protected from solicitation while at the crash location or staying in a hotel near the site.
- Identification services. If remains have been found, families should not have to go through the disturbing process of identifying a loved one’s body. The NTSB must appoint a qualified third party to perform forensic services necessary to establish the victim’s identification and inform relatives of the death of family members in a timely fashion.
- Grief counseling. Licensed therapists should be on hand after a disaster to provide mental health and counseling services for families, including professionals to help relatives arrange a memorial service.
- Airline procedures and responsibilities. The Act specifically places a variety of responsibilities on the airline whose craft was involved in the crash. Firstly, the airline must make a list of all passengers on the downed flight and inform the passengers’ next of kin before the list is made public. Airlines have a duty to help family members retrieve dental records, X-rays, and other methods of identifying the victims, and provide travel to the crash site as well as room and board for families who wish to come to the location of the accident. Finally, the commercial airline must create a toll-free telephone number for families of victims to get updated survivor information, learn what steps the airline is taking after the crash, and how to contact the airline about a memorial service.
- Protection from unsolicited attorneys. In the 1990s, Congress added a provision in the Aviation Disaster Family Assistance Act to prevent attorneys from seeking out families of crash survivors while they were in mourning or attending memorial services. As a result, lawyers and their agents are prohibited from unsolicited communications with crash survivors and relatives of victims until at least 45 days after the crash.
Our law firm takes the right to grieve very seriously, and will never harass or even approach victims who have suffered the sudden loss of a loved one. We know that when the time is right, we can be counted upon to perform an in-depth investigation of a charter plane, helicopter, or commercial airline crash. Our experienced team of aviation attorneys and investigators can secure internal documents, preserve the wreckage, determine liability, and protect the family’s rights during negotiations with insurance providers and airline representatives.
No matter who is responsible for the crash, we will do everything we can to secure you the compensation you need to move on from the tragedy—and we do not collect any legal fees unless we win your case. Simply fill out the short contact form on this page to set up your no-cost injury consultation, or learn more about your rights in our free guide, The 10 Worst Mistakes You Can Make With Your Tennessee Injury Case.