Aviation accidents can be utterly devastating events, especially when they involve the untimely death of a loved one. Grieving families and injured victims require emotional support and access to information about the accident. Moreover, an investigation may be required to determine whether or not to file a legal claim for compensation.
The Aviation Disaster Family Assistance Act
The Aviation Disaster Family Assistance Act (ADFAA) is designed to provide certain services to the grieving families of victims of commercial airline crashes in the United States. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is charged with supervising the provision of these services and coordinating them among the airline, various government agencies and private volunteer organizations. The ADFAA guarantees the following benefits, among others:
- Timely access to information about the crash before it is released to the public
- Accommodation near the crash site, as well as transportation to and from the site
- Counseling and other mental health services
- Assistance with arranging a memorial service and the return of the victim’s remains and property
- A prohibition against unsolicited contact from attorneys for 45 days after the crash.
Grieving relatives will want to know the cause of the crash, regardless of whether or not it occurred due to negligence or some other culpable conduct. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is required to investigate all civil aircraft crashes in the United States and issue a public report on the cause of the accident. Crashes involving small private planes receive less attention from the NTSB, however, which may require you to supplement or even contradict NTSB findings with your own investigation.
If the crash was the result of the negligence of the airline, air traffic control, the aircraft manufacturer, aircraft maintenance personnel or some other party, you will need legal assistance to prepare a claim for compensation. Although compensation for an aviation accident can be enormous, in some cases it can also be quite difficult to determine whether or not negligence was involved at all. If the NTSB’s findings are insufficient to establish negligence, you may find yourself unable to afford to hire your own investigator to substantiate your claim.
Fortunately, however, most plaintiff aviation accident lawyers will take your case on a contingent fee basis if you appear to have a reasonably strong claim for compensation. In a contingency fee arrangement, you pay your legal fees out of your eventual recovery, and nothing comes due until and unless you receive a verdict or settlement. Your lawyer may even agree to pay a private investigator for you in advance. If you fail to receive compensation, you will owe your lawyer nothing. If you do receive compensation, however, you will owe your lawyer a pre-agreed percentage of your recovery (typically 30 to 40 percent of the total).
Once you regain your emotional stability after this unavoidably traumatic time, you will need to begin the process of preparing your claim. Your choice of which attorney to work with could turn out to be the one decision that determines whether or not you receive fair compensation.