Charter Plane Accident Lawsuits
Charter planes crash about five times as often as commercial aircraft do, although they are still safer per passenger mile than automobiles are. One of the reasons for this distressing state of affairs is that while commercial flights are tightly supervised by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), charter flights are much less closely supervised.
Causes of Charter Plane Accidents
Charter plane crashes can be traced to pilot error nearly 90 percent of the time. In some cases, however, a charter plane crash can be attributed to another cause, while in still other cases a crash can be attributed to multiple causes including pilot error. Some of the most common causes for charter plane crashes (other than pilot error) are:
- Maintenance crews failing to properly perform their duties
- Crew members working long hours
- Crew members overlooking known hazards such as ice on the wings
- Air traffic control errors
- Defective manufacturing or design of the aircraft or one of its components (such as the tires or the fuel gauge)
Evidence Problems in Charter Planer Accidents
Unlike commercial airliners, charter planes typically contain no flight recorder (the “black box”). Consequently, insufficient data can complicate any effort to establish the cause of a crash. The evidence problem is compounded by the fact that the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which is responsible for investigating plane crashes, often fails to thoroughly investigate the cause of a charter plane accident. The paucity of available evidence means that more evidence will have to be uncovered by the plaintiff to prove his claim.
Although most plane crash claims are settled out of court, filing a lawsuit is often a practical necessity, because it provides the plaintiff with negotiating leverage. Three types of lawsuits are commonly used to resolve plane crash claims, depending on the circumstances of the crash.
Personal injury negligence lawsuits: In a personal injury negligence lawsuit arising from a charter plane crash, the plaintiff must show that the defendant failed to meet the applicable “standard of care” in some way – in other words, the defendant’s conduct must have been negligent (careless) in light of the experience and training expected of someone in his position. Negligence might be established, for example, by showing that the pilot violated a clear-cut FAA regulation. The plaintiff must also show that the negligence at least partially caused the crash, and that he was injured as a result.
Wrongful death negligence lawsuits: A wrongful death lawsuit is filed by a close relative of a victim who died in the plane crash, or by the executor of the victim’s estate (depending on state law). Although wrongful death lawsuits work much the same way as personal injury lawsuits do, the measure of damages takes into account the losses suffered by the victim’s close relatives (grief, loss of financial support, etc.).
Product liability lawsuits: In a product liability lawsuit, the plaintiff asserts that a defect in the aircraft or one of its components caused the crash, and that the crash either injured or killed the victim. A product liability lawsuit is typically filed against the manufacturer of the aircraft or component, and the plaintiff does not have to prove that the defendant was negligent. The General Aviation Revitalization Act limits the right of a plaintiff to sue the manufacturer of a small aircraft.