Private plane travel covers just about any plane travel outside of commercial airlines including chartered jets, military aircraft, air ambulances and even crop-dusting aircraft. Private planes typically crash more often than commercial aircraft, usually resulting in death or catastrophic personal injury. Plane crash cases tend to be complex, and require the services of a skilled and experienced aviation lawyer to give you the best chance for just compensation.
Why Private Planes are More Dangerous
A modern commercial airliner is a marvelous piece of technology featuring sophisticated and redundant safety systems. Pilots are rigorously trained, and every aspect of a commercial airline flight is governed by extensive and detailed safety regulations. Typically, private planes are not nearly as technologically sophisticated, pilots are not as well-trained, and safety regulations are not as extensive or stringent.
Part of the art of pursuing a private plane crash claim is knowing who to file the claim against. The ideal defendant will be a party whose liability is clear and who can afford to pay a verdict or settlement. Since aviation accidents often arise from a complex series of mistakes, it is often appropriate to file a claim against more than one defendant and apportion fault among them. The most common defendants in private plane accident claims are:
- The pilot (and by extension, his insurance company)
- The aircraft manufacturer or seller (product liability)
- The manufacturer or distributor of a defective aircraft component (product liability)
- Aircraft mechanics
- The company or individual that maintained the aircraft
Unfortunately, federal law makes it almost impossible to file a product liability lawsuit against an aircraft manufacturer if the plane itself is more than 18 years old.
You need strong, admissible evidence to prevail in a plane crash claim, regardless of whether you are pressing your claim in court or negotiating at the settlement table. Potential obstacles that may need to be overcome to win include:
- The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), responsible for investigating the causes of plane crashes in the United States, often fails to conduct an extensive investigation of small plane crashes. This can leave much of the burden of establishing the cause of the crash on the victims’ families and the plaintiff attorneys.
- Private plane crashes are often caused by a series of errors that interlock in complex ways. This can make it difficult to prove liability, especially if the attorney knows little about aviation.
- You are likely to need to retain the services of a plane crash accident reconstruction specialist to prove the causes of the crash.
- Private plane pilots often carry little or no liability insurance. If the pilot himself cannot afford to pay the claim, you might be forced to sue other defendants whose liability might not be easy to establish.
Damages for a private plane accident claim can be immense, because plane accidents rarely result in only minor injuries. The types of damages you will be eligible for will vary depending on whether or not the victim was hurt (a personal injury claim) or killed (a wrongful death claim on behalf of relatives). In all likelihood, the amount of non-economic damages such as pain and suffering will far exceed the amount you will recover for economic damages such as medical expenses and lost earnings.
Significant up-front expenses are usually required to establish liability in a private plane accident claim. For that reason, most experienced plane crash lawyers will agree to work on a contingency basis. In a contingency arrangement, the lawyer will pay all necessary expenses in advance in exchange for a substantial portion of any verdict or settlement – typically around one-third plus any up-front litigation expenses he paid on your behalf.
Please browse our directory of aviation accident attorneys to find an experienced attorney to help you with your claim.