When individuals think of an aviation accident, the most common image is an airplane or helicopter crash. But a wide range of accidents can occur on a plane. From falling luggage hitting a passenger to slip and fall accidents, airplanes and helicopters present risks to passengers and their staff if care is not taken to reduce or warn individuals of these risks.
The aviation accident attorneys at the Hernandez Law Group, P.C., help victims of aviation accidents gain the compensation they deserve to cover damages and medical expenses. We understand that not every aviation accident involves something as serious as a crash and that injuries within the cabin also deserve as much attention. We work to protect our clients’ right to fair compensation.
To help you navigate the legal skies of Texas aviation accidents, the attorneys at the Hernandez Law Group have created this guide to ensure you know what to expect.
Understanding Aviation Accidents in Texas
Aviation accidents are incidents that involve any type of flying aircraft. A majority of these accidents happen with the following:
- Hot Air Balloons
- Powered Parachutes
However, aviation accidents may also include unmanned aircraft, such as drones.
Due to the nature and increased aircraft safety features, aviation accidents are rare. A person is more likely to get into a car accident than into an accident on an airplane. However, this does not mean that aviation accidents do not happen.
What Causes Aviation Accidents?
Aviation accidents can occur due to several different factors. Most aviation accidents involve smaller aircraft rather than large commercial airplanes. However, commercial airline accidents may seem more prominent since they tend to make the news.
Not all aviation accidents are fatal but they can cause damage to equipment and serious injury to the people involved. Most aviation accidents are caused by the following:
- Pilot Error: Human error is often the cause of an aviation accident. A single lapse in judgment can cause an airplane to slide off a runway, crash, or experience other issues, such as running dangerously low on fuel.
- Mechanical Error: While all aircraft are subject to intense inspections, maintenance, and repair services before they can be considered safe for use, mechanical errors can still happen. Whether the failure was due to a faulty part or component or an overlooked area during the inspection, mechanical errors can lead to dangerous accidents.
- Design Defect: On average, an airline or other aircraft is replaced every 22.8 years to ensure that the machines are equipped with the latest safety equipment. Due to strict regulations and maintenance on these machines, ensuring that the aircraft is up-to-date can make or break an airline or other aircraft company. However, newer aircraft are not immune to having design defects, which can put the crew and passengers at risk for injuries or wrongful deaths following the failure of the machine.
- Traffic Control Error: Like pilots, traffic controllers are human. Due to that, they are subject to making mistakes that can lead to an airplane or other aircraft being subject to serious risks, such as inclement weather or entering another aircraft’s flight path. If an accident was caused due to their faulty directions, an air controller may be liable for damages surrounding the accident.
- Defective Runways: For both commercial airlines and smaller personal planes, the runways used to get the planes off the ground need to be properly built and maintained. If they are not cared for as needed, then they can develop serious issues including potholes. This can lead to a plane getting damaged, weakening its structural integrity or safety features. This can lead to a serious accident.
- Poor Weather Conditions: Being able to predict weather patterns and conditions is paramount to the success of any aviation flight. Thanks to modern advancements in weather-predicting instruments, airlines, helicopter pilots, and other aviation pilots can easily tell when it is safe or not to have aircraft in the air. In some cases, flight paths may be altered to avoid severe weather conditions. However, nature is unpredictable, and storms can spring up in an instant, leading to dangerous conditions for aircraft and resulting in serious accidents or injuries.
Determining Liability After an Aviation Accident in Texas
Liability for an aviation accident depends on the cause of the accident and whether or not the possible liable party was negligent. For example, if the accident was caused due to a mix-up with air traffic control, then the federal government may be the responsible party. This is because the federal government is responsible for air traffic control, ensuring that it runs smoothly and that all employees are properly trained. They have a responsibility to keep an eye on the airways, ensure that all pilots know their flight patterns, and help them if something were to go wrong in the sky, such as running low on fuel or sudden inclement weather. If you were involved in an aviation accident, the following entities may be held accountable:
- The Pilot: If it is shown that the pilot was negligent in their duty, such as failing to do traditional pre-flight checks or deciding to take a different route instead of the one provided by air traffic control, and got into an accident, they may be held responsible.
- The Owner of the Aircraft: The owner of the aircraft can be sued for “vicarious liability” if it is shown that they were negligent in hiring or training their pilot. They can also be held responsible if it is shown that they knew that the aircraft they sent into the air was defective and did nothing to fix it.
- Manufacturer of the Aircraft: If the accident occurred due to a defect in the aircraft, then the manufacturer of the aircraft or the aircraft part may be held responsible. This type of case would then fall under the product liability tort of personal injury law.
- The Federal Government: The federal government may be responsible through its Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) if it is shown that the accident occurred due to an issue or an error by Air Traffic Control.
Investigation and Evidence Gathering After an Aviation Accident Injury
After an accident involving an aircraft, the injuries one sustains are likely to be so severe that they are rushed to the hospital. If you find yourself in this position, the best thing to do is to follow the doctor’s recommended treatment plans for your injuries and ensure that you make all follow-up appointments. The medical records will ensure that all the injuries resulting from the accident are properly documented, as well as the cost of current and future treatments.
All crashes are reported to the National Transportation Safety Board and the federal agency investigates the accident to determine the cause. This investigation is public, meaning that your personal injury attorney will be able to get a copy of the report they provide and can use it as evidence to show the negligence of the liable party.
Once you are able to, you will want to contact a trusted aviation accident attorney, such as the attorneys at the Hernandez Law Group, P.C. Our team can help you navigate speaking with the airline or aircraft’s insurance company and legal team. We will help ensure you receive the compensation you deserve. Do not try to accept or speak with the airline’s insurance or legal team without your attorney present.
Our attorneys then get to work on the following:
- Investigating Your Claim: Our attorneys first gather any information we can about the accident. This can be in the form of photographs of the accident and your injuries, medical documentation about your injuries and treatment, and witness statements, etc. We will also speak with you about what happened before and after the accident. Make sure to give all the details you can remember, as every detail is important, no matter how minor it may seem. An experienced aviation accident attorney will be able to identify which information may aid your case. We will also gather accident reports from the FAA, NTSB, and any other authorities that may have investigated the accident.
- Build Your Case: Once our attorneys have collected the proper evidence to support your claim, we will begin to build your case. This means reaching out to other passengers who may have been injured in the crash, speaking with witnesses, or getting copies of communications between the owner of the aircraft and the operator/pilot. We will then take the proper legal measures to preserve black box recordings and hire expert witnesses who can testify on your behalf to better support your claim.
- Determining Who Is Liable for the Accident: Once the cause of the accident has been determined, our attorney will decide who is liable for your injuries and damages. Depending on the cause of the incident, this part could be:
- The pilot
- The manufacturer of the plane
- The federal government
- The airline owner or aircraft owner
Compensation for Texas Aviation Accident Victims
Aviation accidents lead to serious, life-altering issues and often involve long-term medical needs and complications for the victim. Regardless of whether you have fully recovered from your injury or have been left with a lingering or permanent disability, you can rest assured that the Hernandez Law Group, P.C. will ensure your fair compensation. We understand that not all injuries from an aviation accident are visible. Some take the form of emotional and mental distress due to the trauma of the accident. We will be able to help you get the compensation you deserve for the following:
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Medical bills, both present and future expenses
- Permanent disability
- Lost income
- Property damage or loss
Legal Representation and Next Steps
As mentioned earlier, it is important that you contact an experienced aviation accident attorney to ensure that you receive the compensation you deserve after an accident. The aircraft owner’s insurance company or their legal team may try to convince you to accept their first compensation offer. This is often done to protect the aircraft owner, not you. If you accept the first offer they make, it may prevent you from getting the compensation you truly deserve. Don’t make this mistake, and instead, contact the trusted aviation attorneys at the Hernandez Law Group, P.C.
In the weeks or months following your accident, investigators from the two federal agencies in charge of looking into all civil aviation crashes will most likely contact you. The information you provide the NTSB and the FAA will inform their official accident reports, which can play a factor in your personal injury case. It is crucial that you protect your right to compensation by making sure your aviation attorney is present for all of these conversations.
Statute of Limitations in Texas for Aviation Accident Cases
The statute of limitations on aviation accidents is two years from the date of the accident. It is important that you act swiftly to ensure that you are getting the compensation you deserve and aid in your recovery. Don’t allow yourself and your family to experience the financial hardships that often stem from accidents such as this. Contact our personal injury attorneys today for more information on our aviation accident attorney services or to schedule a free no-obligation consultation. You can rest assured that our attorneys will not stop fighting until you get the compensation you deserve for the best chance at a full recovery.
Aviation Accident FAQs
Yes. Make sure you have a competent aviation accident attorney on your side to get the compensation you deserve after your accident.
Currently, United States law dictates that the minimum compensation for a domestic airline crash is $100,000 for injury or the death of a passenger. However, compensation depends on the damages and injuries that were sustained. Contact your trusted personal injury attorney for more information.
Yes. After an accident, the airline or owner of the aircraft and their insurance company will reach out to you to try and get you to take their settlement for your accident. However, it is important to have an experienced aviation accident attorney on your side to ensure that you get the compensation you deserve and nothing less.
The following parties may be liable for the aviation accident, depending on what caused it:
1. The pilot
2. The federal government
3. The manufacturer of the aircraft
4. The airline or owner of the aircraft
The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board investigates all civil aviation crashes.
The most important thing to do after a plane crash is ensure you follow all treatment plans provided by your healthcare professional and attend all follow-up appointments for your injuries. This will provide a medical record of your injuries and is important in getting the compensation you deserve and ensuring a successful recovery. Next, you will want to contact a trusted aviation attorney to help you negotiate with the airline’s insurance company and legal team to make sure that they are not trying to convince you to take less than you deserve.
The most common injuries are as follows:
1. Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs)
2. Broken bones
3. Back injuries
5. Emotional trauma
6. Wrongful death
In the United States, there are roughly 20 helicopter crashes per 100,000 flight hours.