Santa Ana Airplane Crash Attorney
Air travel is safe, safer than driving, but accidents do happen, especially in heavy traffic. Whether you are a private pilot, a flight instructor, a student, a commercial pilot, or a passenger, you might be eligible for compensation if you suffered injury or lost a loved one in a plane crash due to another party’s negligence.
Contact the experienced Santa Ana airplane crash lawyers at Aitken * Aitken * Cohn at (866) 434-1424 to schedule a free consultation to discuss the details of your case.
Aitken * Aitken * Cohn’s Results in Airplane Accident Cases
The award-winning Santa Ana personal injury lawyers at Aitken * Aitken * Cohn has recovered millions of dollars for injured clients, including those involved in aviation accidents. The firm remains committed to professional excellence and exceptional client service, with continued recognition by their peers through organizations such as Super Lawyers, Best Lawyers in America, and Martindale-Hubbell.
Examples of the firm’s success in airplane crash litigation include wrongful death claims of family members of a man killed in crash in Lake Perris, of a group of parachute jumpers, of a private pilot who crashed in Mexico, of a private pilot who rented a plane in Sacramento, and of individuals who died in a Sikorsky Helicopter crash. Aitken * Aitken * Cohn cannot guarantee an outcome for a particular case, but nonetheless, represent clients with a firm commitment to achieving the best possible outcome for each client’s individual situation.
Causes of Airplane Crashes
Several different scenarios might lead to an airplane crash. According to Boeing, in the early days of aviation, most crashes were a result of the aircraft—poor design, equipment malfunction, etc. Today’s airliner crashes are 80 percent the result of human error, including pilots, air-traffic controllers, and mechanics. According to the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), the percentage of small airplane accidents caused by pilot error hovers around 75 percent. Regardless of the size of the airplane, the following situations might cause a crash:
- Defective landing gear
- Bird strikes and bad weather
- Radar malfunctions
- Incorrect fuel load
- Engine failure
- Electronic malfunction
- Poor maintenance
- Improper loading
- On board fires
- Pilot error/lack of pilot training
- Air traffic control error
When Do Fatal Airplane Crashes Occur?
As a leader in the aviation industry, Boeing gathers data on large commercial jet incidents and accidents. According to their most recent data, 49 percent of fatal plane crashes and 44 percent of on board fatalities occur during an airplane’s final approach to the runway or during landing. During a one and half hour commercial flight, pilots use four percent of flight time, less than four minutes, for final approach and landing. Correcting major malfunctions during this short period is difficult, making landing the most dangerous phase during flight. Boeing estimates 14 percent of fatal plane crashes occur during take-off and the initial climb, the next most critical flight phase.
For general aviation, the story slightly differs. In examining crash data from 2009 to 2018, the FAA reports in flight loss of control led to the highest number of fatal accidents in general aviation. In most of these accidents, the pilot stalled the airplane and could not recover, resulting in a crash. A stall occurs when the position of the aircraft changes so the wings no longer have the necessary airflow to provide lift and keep the plane flying. In fact, landing an airplane is nothing more than a controlled stall; a perfect landing occurs when a pilot gets a stall warning as the wheels of an airplane touch the ground. Inexperienced pilots who cannot recover from a stall mid-flight, or unexpected weather, often lead to stalls during flight.
Liability in Airplane Accidents
Determining liability in airplane accidents can be a tricky endeavor. The National Transportation Safety Board investigates all aviation accidents. Multi-engine airplanes used for commercial reasons, whether hauling passengers or cargo, must have cockpit voice recorders (CVR) and flight data recorders (FDR). Commonly referred to as “little black boxes,” these recorders provide valuable information on what happened in the minutes leading up to a crash, but they don’t always give clues as to how or why a crash occurred. When a small plane crashes, the NTSB only has clues left in the debris of the crash to determine the cause, and the testimony of any survivors.
Liable parties in airplane accidents vary based on the type of plane and the purpose of the flight. Those who might be named in a lawsuit include:
- All parties involved will look to the pilot-in-command (PIC) of an aircraft for fault because he makes the final decisions regarding the aircraft, including its suitability for flight and whether or not to fly in certain types of weather. Yet, pilot error is rarely the only cause of an accident, especially in large plane crashes.
- Owner or airline. In small planes, the pilot and the owner might be the same person or a pilot might lease a plane from another owner, whereas a charter company or airline typically own larger planes and jets. In any case, the FAA requires the aircraft owner to maintain the plane’s “airworthiness.” This means following FAA standards for maintenance and inspections. Failure to do so might result in mechanical issues causing a plane crash.
- Fixed-based operator (FBO). An FBO is a business entity that has permission from an airport to operate and provide services. FBOs often provide fuel services, hangar space, airplane tie-down, parking, airplane rental, maintenance, and flight instruction.
- Airplane manufacturer or parts manufacturer. If poor aircraft design or a defective part causes an airplane crash, manufacturers might be liable for damages related to the injury or fatality of anyone involved in the accident.
- Airplane maintenance. Those individuals and companies who inspect and repair airplanes must also adhere to strict FAA regulations concerning maintenance procedures. Failure to properly carry out their job can contribute to the cause of a plane crash. This information often comes to light after a thorough review of an aircraft’s maintenance logs.
- S. government. Air traffic control (ATC) specialists are government employees. When an ATC mistake or failure leads to an airplane accident, a court might find the government liable in a lawsuit.
Seeking Damages After an Airplane Crash in Santa Ana
Under California law, sustaining injuries in an airplane crash entitles you to sue for damages in civil court when the crash was caused by another party’s negligence. A settlement or a verdict in your favor might result in recovering the following losses:
- Ambulance and rescue services. Sometimes small planes crash on roads or in fields, making it easy for rescue crews to reach occupants. In other cases, search and rescue teams must locate an aircraft, and airlift occupants to the nearest hospital. In either case, these costs add up quickly.
- Medical expenses. This includes medical treatment in the emergency room, burn injury treatment, hospitalization, surgery, follow-up visits, x-rays, medication, and travel expenses to and from the doctor/hospital.
- Future medical treatment. In many cases, an airplane crash will result in severe injuries requiring extensive recovery; in some cases, catastrophic injuries cause permanent disability requirement lifelong medical care. A court might award compensation for an estimate of these costs.
- Rehabilitation expenses. If you are likely to make a strong or full recovery, you will need physical therapy, perhaps for weeks or months. These expenses might also include assistive devices such as crutches, wheelchairs, walkers, canes, and artificial limbs.
- Current and future lost wages. It’s likely your involvement in an airplane crash will result in weeks or months away from your job, and severe injuries might prevent you from ever returning to work. Future lost wages, referred to as lost earning capacity, also includes lost benefits. Your claim for damages might include compensation for both of these scenarios.
- Pain and suffering. Courts award accident victims for physical pain and suffering endured as a result of their injuries.
- Emotional distress. Plane crashes often cause emotional trauma, PTSD, or other mental health struggles, which warrant compensation from the liable party.
- Loss of consortium. Severe injuries can create major physical and emotional divides in relationships. California law entitles you to seek loss of consortium damages when your injury causes marital problems with your spouse.
- Punitive damages. Courts use punitive damages to punish defendants in cases of intentional harm and gross negligence. For example, Federal Airway Regulations (FARs) require specific maintenance procedures and timelines for inspections. If your attorney can prove that a private pilot, a charter company, or airline intentionally ignored FARs, the court might award punitive damages. You will have to discuss your case with an attorney to know if they might apply to your situation.
Wrongful Death Claims and Survivor Actions in California
California stands apart from many other states because they offer two legal alternatives when a loved one dies due to another party’s negligence: wrongful death claims and survivor actions. Each type of legal action differs based on who can file the lawsuit and the types of damages that might be recovered.
Under California law, a personal representative of the estate of the deceased, a surviving spouse, a surviving child, or another surviving dependent can file a wrongful death suit. Families cannot ask for punitive damages, but can ask and might be awarded compensation for:
- Loss of support
- Loss of services
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Loss of companionship and sexual cohabitation
Families can only pursue this legal pathway after death if the deceased did not immediately die after injury. Additionally, only a personal representative of the estate or the successor-in-interest of the deceased can initiate a survival cause of action. Survival actions allow the representative of the estate or the successor to act on behalf of the deceased; under California law, the estate can recover damages entitled to the deceased had he or she survived the accident. This includes the previously listed compensatory damages, such as medical expenses and lost wages. The estate can also sue for punitive damages in a survival action, but the estate cannot recover damages for pain, suffering, or disfigurement.
If you have lost a family member in a plane crash, you need to consult with an airplane accident attorney who has experience with wrongful death claims. Your attorney will advise you on which type of claim is best for your individual situation.
Contact a Compassionate and Knowledgeable Santa Ana Airplane Accident Lawyer
Airline crash cases are complex and often include multiple parties, especially when a large charter company or airline is involved. When the crash occurs on a commercial flight, sometimes operators require passengers to sign waivers, further complicating the legal process. Compounding the matter, many crashes result in the death of all those involved, leaving survivors on both sides to deal with the aftermath. If you were lucky enough to walk away from an airplane crash caused by another party’s negligence, you deserve to be compensated for your injuries and the emotional trauma often associated with surviving a plane crash.
If you lost a loved one in an airplane accident, you and your family are going through an incredibly difficult time. Money cannot bring back your family member and undo your loss, but it can help pay for losses and expenses incurred as a result of the accident and the death of your loved one. Additionally, taking legal action will hold negligent parties accountable, potentially preventing future accidents and losses.
Aitken * Aitken * Cohn’s compassionate attorneys are here to help. We can handle the details of your case, gathering relevant evidence and documents, and communicating with the defense, while you focus on coping with your unexpected loss. Contact Aitken * Aitken * Cohn or call us at (866) 434-1424 to schedule a consultation to discuss the details of your airplane accident crash. If we represent you, we handle personal injury cases on contingency, deducting attorney fees only from any compensation we secure for you in the form of a settlement or verdict in your favor.