Aviation & Mass Transit Accidents Law

Aviation Accidents: Rules and Regulations

To prevent aircraft accidents, the federal government has created safety standards that various federal agencies enforce. This includes the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for regulation of civil aviation, including air traffic control and airport standards. This also includes the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which investigates airplane accidents and prepares reports.

The FAA and NTSB will be involved in any commercial airline or air travel accident investigation for:

  • Airplane crashes and aviation disasters
  • Crew member or pilot errors
  • Negligent operation of an aircraft

If you or a loved one have a personal injury claim relating to an air carrier, you can explore your legal issues with an aviation attorney who can determine if you have a case.

Federal Regulations and Policies

The FAA has many regulations and policies to promote safe and reliable airplane operation that prevents accidents. These policies are also intended to:

  • Encourage the development of new aviation technologies and regulations for commercial space transportation
  • Maintain air traffic control for civil and military aircraft
  • Promote civil aeronautics research and protect the country’s national airspace
  • Control noise and environmental pollution resulting from flight

The conducts of pilots, flight crew, flight instructors, and federal air traffic controllers are subject to the FAA’s general operating and flight rules under the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). You can read more about these regulations on FAA’s website.

The NTSB supplements FAA’s work by:

  • Conducting accident investigations to promote airline safety
  • Helping victims, survivors, and their families overcome or cope with airline accidents
  • Making safety recommendations to the aviation community

When it comes to other types of transportation, the NTSB has additional functions which are not covered by this article. You can read more about other transportation functions on NTSB’s website.

State Laws Governing Airline Accidents

Aviation accidents can take many forms. Here are different airline accident scenarios that can call to general state laws for negligence and breach of contract:

  • The airplane crash-landed or collided with another object
  • Your luggage was lost, damaged, or stolen while under the care of the airline
  • A crew member dropped a heavy tray on your lap that injured you
  • You got food poisoning after being served by a flight attendant

For a negligence lawsuit, if you want to show the airline was negligent in causing your injuries, you have to show:

  • The airline had a duty to prevent foreseeable harm, such as injuries that could happen to their own passengers;
  • The airline has breached its duty, for instance, by failing to follow reasonable safety procedures;
  • The airline’s failures caused a crash or injuries; and
  • You suffered personal injury damages, like pain and suffering, emotional distress, and medical expenses.

Similarly, an airline accident could mean that the airline breached its contract of carriage (its legal agreement) with you because:

  • 1.You entered into the contract when you bought your plane tickets;
  • 2.You performed your duty under the contract by paying for the flight and abiding by the airline’s safety rules;
  • 3.The airline violated its contract because it failed to take you to your destination safely or caused your property to be lost, stolen, or damaged; and
  • 4.The airline’s violation of the contract of carriage damaged you financially, or you or your property suffered physical damages.

If an airline’s negligence or contractual breach causes a passenger to pass away after an airline accident, that person’s family or loved ones may even be able to bring a wrongful death claim against the airline.

Product Liability in General Aviation

Under product liability law, an airline or aircraft manufacturer may be liable for defective products. A manufacturer of airplane parts may be liable if their defective products are:

  • Unreasonably dangerous for ordinary consumers; or
  • They do not properly perform as safely as an ordinary person would expect while they are making reasonable use of the product.

The General Aviation Revitalization Act of 1994 (GARA) protects small aircraft manufacturers from accidents, including plane crashes causing injuries that result from aircraft parts that are 18 years or older. GARA applies only to small civil aircraft, not large commercial ones.

Under GARA, a small plane parts provider can be liable for serious injuries or aviation liability claims if:

  • It knowingly misrepresents or hides important information regarding a defect that caused harm
  • The injured victim is on an emergency air medical service
  • The aircraft part is covered under warranty
  • The injured party was outside the airplane, such as a car driver into whom the pilot crash-lands

International rules and regulations can also affect how an airline or parts manufacturer might be liable. To learn more, check out our article on Third Party Aviation Accidents, which discusses the Montreal and Warsaw Conventions.

An Aviation Accident Attorney Can Help

If an airline accident caused injuries to you or death or `injury to your family member, you can take action. You may be tired, confused, and afraid of dealing with medical bills, time lost from work, pain and suffering, and an uncertain future.

An experienced personal injury attorney can help. A local aviation accident lawyer can help you and your loved ones get money in a lawsuit. They can negotiate with insurance companies, file your case in court, and help you receive compensation for injuries.

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