Many people—particularly anxious fliers—have heard the statement that flying in a large commercial airplane is safer than driving in a car. It refers to the relatively small number of accidents and deaths occurring in large commercial flights compared to the number of accidents and deaths on the nation’s highways.
In 2017, for example, 346 people were killed in commercial aviation accidents and 330 were killed in noncommercial aviation accidents, according to the Insurance Information Institute. But far more, over 32,000, were killed in vehicle accidents on the nation’s roads.
If you or a loved one has suffered from an aviation related incident don’t hesitate to reach out to a trusted personal injury attorney to discuss your potential options?
Injuries and Fatalities in the Skies
But while vehicle accidents routinely cause more fatalities and injuries than aviation accidents, that fact certainly doesn’t mean the skies are completely safe. Far from it.
First, if aviation crashes occur, they are often catastrophic, killing or injuring everyone on board. Even accidents in take-off and landing can be very serious, because the craft is airborne or on its way upward. Second, many people are injured in or around commercial aircraft every year in ways unrelated to crashes. Accidents can occur in-flight, on the ground or area around the airplane, or while boarding. Passengers may slip and fall in the aircraft. Cargo can fall on passengers, causing serious injuries. Passengers are injured by malfunctioning luggage compartments and even by malfunctioning airbags. Airline passengers can be assaulted by other passengers.
Injuries suffered in both crashes and in-flight incidents can range from traumatic brain injury and spinal cord damage to fractured bones, deep cuts, and severe bruises. They can be catastrophic, permanently affecting a person’s ability to conduct the activities of daily life by themselves and to work.
A large range of injuries can occur in aviation accidents, including:
- Severe lacerations
- Severe bruising
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
- Spinal cord injuries
- Crush injuries, such as nerve damage
- Head injuries
- Loss of limb
- Damage to soft tissue
Types of Aircraft Involved in Accidents
Florida’s usually clear skies attract a high number of aircraft. People can be injured or killed by or in aircraft, including:
- Commercial aircraft
- Private jets
- Private airplanes
- Air taxis
- Hang gliders
- Hot air balloons
- Experimental aircraft
Nationwide, 1,316 civil aviation accidents occurred and 1,233 general aviation (noncommercial) accidents occurred in 2017. Accidents in some types of craft are rising. Air taxi accidents, for instance, rose to 43 in 2017 from 30 in 2016, with 15 deaths that year. There is also evidence that some types of crafts are more dangerous than others. Amateur-built and experimental aircraft, for example, cause 25 percent of accidents, while only constituting 5 percent of overall fleet hours, according to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
Ownership of other types of aircraft is growing rapidly, as well. Drone ownership, for example, is estimated to rise to 2.4 million by 2022, more than double the 1.1 million owned in 2017. Commercial drone registration is forecast to rise to 451,800 in 2022, quadruple the 110,604 registered in 2017. As the number of aircraft rise, it is reasonable to assume that the number of accidents associated with them will climb as well (Drones over a certain weight must be registered with the FAA).
Florida sees a relatively high number of accidents every month in aircraft of various types. The National Safety Transportation Board (NSTB), for example, investigates aviation accidents.
Recent months showed small-craft aviation accidents throughout Florida, some with serious injuries. Any type of accident that takes place in aircraft, from inflight incidents to aborted take-offs or bumpy landings, can cause severe injury. If accidents happen with any of these aircraft, you or a loved one can be injured or killed. Your property can be damaged or destroyed.
What Recourse Do You Have if You’re Injured in an Aviation Accident?
Multiple entities involved in aviation have a legal obligation—duty of care—to make sure their passengers are safe when they fly. These entities include:
- Private plane operators
- Flight crew members
- Maintenance crews
- Manufacturers, of both aircraft and component parts
- Air traffic control
- Commercial airline companies
- Private plane companies
- Service companies
- Fixed base operators (FBOs)
- Aviation companies who operate types of aircraft other than planes
- Tour companies using recreational aircraft, like hang-gliders and hot-air balloons
Duty of care includes ensuring the safety of passengers in purchasing and maintaining aircraft, educating and training personnel, ensuring safe operation, ensuring safe on-ground communication, and conforming with all applicable rules and regulations. Aviation accidents can be caused by:
- Pilot error
- Defective equipment
- Improperly maintained planes or component parts
- Errors in air traffic control
- Mechanical airplane defects
- Violations of FAA regulations
- Violations of commercial flight safety
- Issues in aircraft engineering
- Poor weather conditions
- Design defects
- Manufacturing defects
If the responsible entities violate their duty of care in a negligent fashion, they are liable for any injuries that occurred as a result of the negligence. In Florida, people who have been injured by the negligence of another can bring a legal suit for compensation for damages. These include economic damages, such as medical bills, wages for time lost from work, and compensation for damaged property. You can also bring a suit for non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering.
The causes of aviation accidents can be very complex. The NTSB investigates accidents to see what caused them. Proper compensation might require the results of NTSB reports or other investigations to see that justice is served.
Can a Personal Injury Attorney in Florida Help Me if I was in an Aviation Accident?
A personal injury attorney in Florida can help those injured in aviation accidents in several ways. First, personal injury attorneys can gather materials compiled by federal and state investigators. Second, they can work with private investigators to determine the cause of an accident. They can interview witnesses and other parties relevant to the accident. Third, they can help you gather data among the cost of your damages, both economic and non-economic.
Fourth, they can negotiate a settlement. If the case goes to an insurance company, personal injury attorneys are skilled and experienced in negotiating a just and fair settlement. Insurance companies will often try to offer the minimum acceptable compensation—or try to deny claims on technical or inadequate grounds. It’s important to know the law to gain truly adequate compensation for injuries and pain and suffering.
If the case isn’t covered through insurance companies, a personal injury lawyer can prepare a case for trial and litigate. Many personal injury cases in Florida are settled out of court, but it is still imperative to be prepared to mount a clear statement of fault and liability in a court of law.
Why? All too many defendants in a personal injury case will try to blame the injured for their own injuries. If you have been injured in a slip and fall while on a commercial airline, for example, the company may try to argue that the accident stemmed from your own carelessness or inattention, rather than unsafe conditions or failure to clean and maintain the floor properly.
If they are successful in arguing that you are at fault, your case could be unsuccessful. Even if they convince the court that you were only partly at fault, your compensation for damages could be reduced. Florida operates under a pure comparative negligence rule, which means damages are reduced by the percentage the court finds the defendant at fault. If you are judged even 10 percent responsible for your injuries, your compensation for damages will be decreased by 10 percent. An attorney can defend you from allegations of fault, and place the responsibility where it lies.
What If My Loved One Was Killed in a Florida Aviation Accident?
Personal injury claims can be brought if a person has been injured, or their property damaged, by the actions of another party who owed them a duty of care. But what if someone dies?
A party who owes someone a duty of care, and whose actions cause death rather than injury, can be the recipient of a type of lawsuit called “wrongful death.” Wrongful death alleges that negligence of another party was a wrongful act that caused death. The conduct involved must have entitled the person, if injured, to take action and recover damages if death had not occurred.
While a personal injury suit can be brought by an injured party, the Florida Wrongful Death Act allows a personal representative of the deceased person to file a suit. The personal representative is often named in a will or other, similar plan pertaining to a person’s estate. If the deceased person did not leave a will or other estate plan, a personal representative is often appointed by the court.
Wrongful death suits are usually filed on behalf of surviving family members and the estate. In Florida, a deceased person’s spouse, children, parents, dependent blood relatives, and child(ren) born out of wedlock are entitled to bring a wrongful death claim (The latter need to establish that the father assumed support). All of these parties are entitled to recover damages, as well. If a loved one has died in an aviation accident in Florida, a suit must be filed within four years. That is referred to as the statute of limitations.
Many wrongful death claims settle before trial. If that occurs, and minor children are involved, the court may appoint a guardian ad litem. A special court hearing is sometimes held to approve any settlement on behalf of minor children. If such a hearing is held, parties that represent the plaintiff and defendant and the guardian ad litem attend it.
In personal injury cases, the injured can recover compensation related to medical treatment, lost wages from work due to the injury, and pain and suffering. In wrongful death claims, the parties who can recover are entitled to related damages, plus others related specifically to the death. They can receive compensation for medical expenses related to any injury or illness pertaining to the accident. They can also be compensated for funeral expenses. The estate can also receive compensation for these, if the estate paid for them.
The deceased person’s estate can sue for damages for lost wages, benefits related to a job that was unable to be performed, and the potential for future earnings. The estate can also bring suit for value the estate could reasonably have been expected to receive had the decedent lived.
Family members who survive the deceased person can sue for damages for the value of support and services the deceased person provided to the family member when alive. They can also sue for loss of companionship and loss of guidance to a family member. They can sue for mental and emotional pain and suffering if the deceased person is a child. Parents of adult children, however, can not usually bring a suit for emotional pain and suffering.
Other claims depend on the litigant’s relationship with the deceased person. Spouses, for example, can claim damages for lost companionship and emotional suffering connected with the death. Children who are minors can bring suit for lost benefits of the parental relationship, such as support and comfort.
In both personal injury and wrongful death cases, damages awarded are compensatory, meaning they are intended to compensate the victims or their family for damages. A court may also award punitive damages to injured people or surviving family members in some cases. Punitive damages are intended to punish defendants for certain behavior(s). A company that has shown a pattern of behavior in ignoring repeated safety concerns, for example, may be assessed punitive damages. Punitive damages are designed to discourage reckless, intentional, or malicious behavior from parties that caused harm.
What Are the First Steps After an Aviation Accident?
While aviation accidents are statistically rare, they are nonetheless a real and constant threat to air passengers. If you need further information or assistance in a Florida aviation accident, our aviation accident attorneys can help you understand the law, as well as your options.
Call Our Aviation Accident Lawyers for More Information
With offices across both Florida coasts, you can easily reach Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, and Sibley Dolman Accident Injury Lawyers, LLP, at 833-552-7274 (833-55-CRASH), or you can write to us using our online contact page.
Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33756