- What is Aviation Law?
Aviation law controls all facets of air travel and operation including aircraft design, manufacture, safety and maintenance; airline and airport regulation; and pilot, maintenance personnel and crew training and licensure requirements. Depending on the facts of a specific case, aviation law may overlap with many other areas of law including admiralty law, international law and tort law.
Herrmann Law Group has been a dominant force in the aviation legal community for over 36 years. Our FIRM RECORD includes countless legal battles fought on behalf of air crash victims and their families, millions of dollars in compensation secured and challenges against industry giants for improved safety measures.
- What are the most common causes of airplane crashes?
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) estimates that the number of passengers utilizing air travel will increase by more than 400 million over the next twenty years. As airline travel increases, so do the chances of crashes occurring while in the air or on the runway. Years of experience has taught the attorneys at Herrmann Law Group that most often there are numerous errors or failures that come together simultaneously to cause an airplane crash. Rarely is there a single cause.
Some common causes include:
- Human Error
According to planecrashinfo.com1, pilot error is the single leading factor contributing to airplane crashes (58% of all airplane crashes since 1960 were attributed to pilot error). This makes sense when you consider that pilots are required to continuously interact with the aircraft at every stage of flight. Much like the driver of an automobile, pilots are not immune to fatigue, stress, inattention or distraction that can lead to deadly mistakes.Pilots are not the only ones whose actions may result in injury. Errors made by flight crew, maintenance personnel, and air traffic controllers, amongst others, have all been found to be contributing factors in airplane crashes.Human error often does not act alone. Human error may be a reaction to another leading cause of airplane crashes. For example, a pilot may make the wrong decision in response to a mechanical failure causing the plane to go down. In these situations, the resulting plane crash may or may not have occurred without the human action. It will depend on the specific facts of a case whether the human response was a cause of the crash.
- Defects in Aircraft Design, Manufacture and Maintenance
While the technological advancements in air travel safety improves by the decade, as much as 20% of airline crashes are still due to machine equipment failures according a 2007 study published by Boeing 2. Poor design, manufacture or maintenance, often due to an attempt to cut costs and improve profit, can cause equipment to fail.
Adverse weather conditions contribute to 6% of all airplane crashes according to planecrashinfo.com. Failure of an airline to ground flights in adverse weather conditions may be grounds for negligence.
- Intentional Acts
About 9% of all airplane crashes are caused by intentional acts, such as terrorism, according to planecrashinfo.com.
- Who can be held responsible for an airplane crash?
There are many parties who may be found liable for an airplane crash depending on the specific facts of a crash. Your attorney should investigate all possible sources of potential liability including air traffic controllers, airport operators, airlines, manufacturers of the aircraft and its subcomponents, aircraft maintenance providers and those who are involved in training and instruction of the pilots and crew.
Herrmann Law Group carefully investigates each crash in which our clients have been injured or killed. Our experts will analyze every aspect before, during and after a crash that may unveil any facts regarding who is responsible. To ensure a complete evaluation of liability, we will review both the cockpit voice recorder (CVR) and flight data recorder (FDR), analyze all available remains of the aircraft, and scrutinize corporate policies that may have contributed to the crash.
- Who investigates an airplane crash?
Many parties may be involved in the investigation following an airplane crash. Normally the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)3 and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB)4 will be significantly involved in any investigation of an airplane crash. Additional investigators from the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), the airline, the aircraft manufacturer, other transportation officials from either the country where the crash occurred or the country where the airline is domiciled, or independent investigators hired by the victims or their families may also participate in the investigation.
- What is the Montreal Convention?
The Montreal Convention5, formally The Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules for International Travel by Air, regulates airline liability in the case of death or injury to passengers, and delay, damage or loss of baggage or cargo during international carriage.
The Montreal Convention defines international carriage as, in plain language, a flight in which the place of departure and the destination are within two countries who have ratified the Convention, or a flight in which the place of departure and the destination are within the same country, but the flight also makes a stop in another foreign state.
The Montreal Convention places strict liability on the airline for proven damages up to 113,100 Special Drawing Rights (SDR), resulting from injury or death to a passenger, regardless of fault. SDRs are a form of international money, created by the International Monetary Fund. 113,100 SDRs are equivalent to $157,740.57 USD (converted on 03/20/19). Airlines may avoid liability in excess of this amount by proving that the injury or death was not due to their negligence or was due to the negligence of a third party. The burden of proof is on the airline to establish either they were not negligent or that another party was negligent in causing the injury or death.
- Where can a lawsuit be filed for an airplane crash?
Where a lawsuit may be filed is a complicated legal question that will require analysis of the specific facts of your case by an experienced aviation attorney.
In general, a lawsuit against an airline for injury or wrongful death resulting from a domestic airplane crash can be brought in the either the victim’s place of residence, where the airplane crashed or where the airline has its principal place of business.
Determining where a lawsuit may be filed against an airline for an international flight is more complicated. It must first be determined if the Montreal Convention applies. When applicable, the Montreal Convention provides that a lawsuit for injury or wrongful death against the airline may be brought in one of the following locations (described in plain language):
- Country of registration of the airline;
- Principal place of business of the airline;
- Country in which the ticket was purchased;
- Country of the final destination on the ticket; and
- Country in which the passenger principally and permanently resides.
There may be parties other than the airline who are liable for your damages. It is important to note that the Montreal Convention does not apply to lawsuits against airplane and parts manufacturers, airport personnel, or the federal government. The specific facts of your case must be carefully reviewed and analyzed to determine in which country your lawsuit against these parties may be filed.
Finally, it is possible that there are multiple jurisdictions in which your lawsuit may be filed. Your attorney should consider which jurisdiction is most advantageous for you. For example, the standards for amounts of compensation in U.S. courts have historically been far higher than in the courts of other international jurisdictions. It is a great advantage to litigate your case in the USA.
- What is my case worth?
Issues in the amount of compensation are unique to each individual victim and the specific facts surrounding each incident. In general, settlement for injuries sustained in an airplane crash may include the cost of medical bills, current and future economic loss, and pain and suffering.
If a fatality occurs, the victim’s family or estate may be eligible for compensation. The loss of a loved one is immeasurable. The loss of love, companionship, guidance as well as support and all other financial losses can amount to substantial sums of money depending upon family relationships, age of the victim, actual and potential earnings. Claims are primarily based upon the victim’s family and financial situation. The pre-death terror they felt as the plane fell out of the sky is also taken into consideration.
Herrmann Law Group thoroughly develops and professionally presents all aspects of our clients’ cases. Only then can we advise you as to our professional evaluation of your individual claim.
- What should I do if I have been contacted by an insurance company or the airline?
After an airplane crash, the insurance companies or representatives of the airline typically contact the victim or surviving family members to make a cash settlement offer. Oftentimes, these offers can be extremely low and insulting to the lives lost from the disaster. Insurance companies only have the best interests of their clients (the airline) and shareholders in mind. Therefore, you should seek out advice from an experienced aviation law firm prior to accepting any cash settlement or signing any documents the insurance company or airline might present to you.
You will need the legal guidance of an experienced and passionate attorney, with a deep knowledge and understanding of both domestic and international aviation law. Herrmann Law Group has decades of experience representing victims and their families from all over the globe. OUR TEAM includes attorneys, community representatives, investigators and in-house interpreters of Korean, Chinese, Mexican and Indonesian origin, amongst others. Our ability to communicate effectively with both victims and other involved parties from foreign nations allows us to provide the highest quality legal services to our clients. If you or a loved one has been involved in an airplane crash, CONTACT Herrmann Law Group immediately for a free consultation.