P.I. in the Sky

Oct. 12th, 2011   /   , , ,

P.I. in the Sky

Despite the fact that the vast majority of personal injury cases stem from accidents that occur on the ground, there are still other places where torts are committed.  As various other modes of transportation (and related machinery) develop, we have seen an increase in maritime accidents as well as aviation accidents.  While people are well aware of the dangers that that exist on the road and in a violent sea, flying is generally regarded as the safest mode of transportation.  Flying in an airplane, that is; not trying to fly using your arms as wings.  That won’t work and you will get hurt.

While statistics show that there is a much smaller chance of getting hurt in an airplane than in a car or boat, accidents can still happen when you’re cruising through the sky – and they do.  According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), there were 86 commercial aircraft accidents in 2007.  Fourteen of the accidents were fatal, resulting in 43 deaths.  These accidents ranged from crashes to violent turbulence that affected the passengers.  Take note that all fatalities took place in aircrafts with fewer than ten seats.  So don’t use this blog as an excuse not to visit your in-laws – any airplane you’d typically fly on is still a very safe bet – even safer, statistically, than driving !

As is the case with many accidents, negligence is almost always a component of aviation accidents.  And, like other tort cases, people hurt as a result of negligence on the part of the manufacturer, or pilot, or someone else involved, are often able to receive compensation for their associated losses.  To receive a settlement or a court award for harm caused by an aviation accident, the injured party – the plaintiff – must demonstrate to the insurance company or the court that negligence was a factor.  In the case of an aircraft accident, irresponsibility – negligence – is usually linked to facts procured from a NTSB investigation of the accident.  To obtain compensation, the plaintiff must prove three things: 1) that the accident was the result of someone else’s carelessness, 2) that the accident caused the plaintiff harm, and 3) that the harm caused by the accident should be covered financially by the negligent party (the party at fault).  Courts and insurance companies scrutinize the issues presented to them, so it must be made absolutely clear that the pain and suffering of the plaintiff is a direct result of the accident in question.  Bodily injuries can be fool-proof evidence of such a link, depending on the nature of the accident and the viability of the sustained injury.

If there is more than one negligent party involved, courts often divide the responsibility between the parties.  They base the respective responsibilities on a calculation of percentages of fault that can be fairly attributed to each party.  Plaintiffs can receive compensation for medical expenses, lost income, psychological suffering, lost opportunities, etc.

The causes of aviation accidents can fall under a number of categories, the most common being that of “human error” and “equipment failure.”  With human error, the accident is the result of an error made by a human, i.e. the pilot being distracted, inexperienced, fatigued, etc.  Equipment failure has to do with the failure of the equipment to work as it was intended to, i.e. brakes failing, engines sputtering, etc.  With accidents falling under these categories, it’s quite easy to determine who is at fault.  Human error is generally the responsibility of the “humans” involved who breached their duty of care, and the equipment failure is the responsibility of the manufacturer of the equipment who breached their duty of care by producing a defective product.

As they say, wherever you go, there you are.  Wherever humans roam, our tendencies will follow.  The good with the bad; our positives with our negatives.  And that means that there will be accidents wherever it is that we find ourselves.  So it’s good to be aware of the dangers – and your rights – associated with any situation in which you might find yourself.

So the next time you’re sitting on an airplane and it starts shaking, rest assured, not only do you have the FAA looking out for you: you have the LAW, too!

For questions or comments, please contact the Law Offices of Aronberg and Aronberg at 561-266-9191 or email us at daronberg@aronberglaw.com.

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