Airplane Accidents: Why They Happen and Your Legal Options
Thankfully, airplane accidents are relatively rare, particularly when compared to the frequency of motor vehicle accidents. While it might seem inherently more dangerous than driving, the odds of dying in a plane crash are 11 million to 1, compared to the 5,000 to 1 chances of a fatal car accident. A person is much more likely to be attacked by a shark at that rate. The rarity of fatal plane accidents is thanks in large part to sound modern aircraft structures, enhanced security practices, and improved training regimens for pilots. The amount of detail and care put into air travel makes it a remarkably safe mode of transportation.
However, the unfortunate downside to all of this is that even the smallest malfunction or human slip-up can have devastating consequences for everyone on board and, by extension, their families. Despite their rarity, accidents can happen for any aircraft – from the smallest single engine airplane to the largest passenger jets. Flight plan calculations and airline maintenance can be complicated, so whenever something goes wrong, the outcome for all involved can be catastrophic.
There are numerous issues that can ultimately lead to a plane crash, no matter how big or small – maintenance failures, mechanical defects, pilot error, and improper pre-flight procedures, to name a few. Victims of an airplane accident and their families may feel overwhelmed by the scenario, and they might believe there is nothing they can do to ease the financial burdens that follow in the aftermath.
Fortunately for them, plane crash victims do in fact have rights. This means there is a chance of pursuing a legal claim against the responsible party, regardless of whether the victim survived the accident or not. In Minnesota, plane accident lawyers can examine the case to help those affected decide the best way to move forward with their case.
When something brings down a passenger jet, the sad truth is that many times the ensuing crash results in numerous fatalities. Large airliners have an average cruising altitude of 30,000 to 40,000 feet, and they carry more than 50,000 gallons of fuel on board. Those conditions mean that there is almost no room for error. Pilots are sometimes able to maneuver the plane in such a way that some passengers and crew can survive an impact from that height. However, severe injuries are still very likely and could have lasting or permanent physical and emotional repercussions on a person’s life.
Sometimes an accident is simply unavoidable. The factors that are determined to have caused the crash might have been outside the pilot’s control. Even if the plane was perfectly maintained and controlled, problems like severe weather and bird strikes during takeoff or landing can lead to a severe accident – and there will be virtually nothing the pilot can do to prevent it.
In other cases, there are various other elements that could ultimately lead to a crash. Among the more common ones are defective plane parts, equipment malfunction, improper runway maintenance, and pilot or traffic control error. While these may have been avoidable, ignorance is sometimes a factor. There are also situations where blatant negligence can be proven. Some examples include, but are not limited to:
- The pilot was intoxicated or impaired by drugs or improper medication while operating the airplane
- The pilot made an incorrect maneuver despite knowing the potential hazards and consequences
- Proper aircraft maintenance was ignored and the plane was still cleared to fly
- The air traffic controller fell asleep on the job
Circumstances leading to a small plane crash can differ from those of large commercial crafts. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) conducts thorough months-long inquiries into the latter, but they do not always do such a complete investigations for accidents involving small planes. In those cases, it is important to conduct a thorough private investigation to learn what happened.
Individual hobbyists are often the owners of small planes. They do their own maintenance and might rent out the aircraft to various businesses. If they do, there are strict standards they are required to uphold. Failure to properly maintain the aircraft can hold that individual or the entire business liable if it is determined to be a contributing factor to an accident. They can be held legally accountable for any resulting damages.
Small planes cruise at lower altitudes and considerably slower speeds than passenger jets, so it is not as probable that death will result from a crash. However, the consequences can be just as severe as those of a jet-propelled aircraft. Pilots are not always professional, so they have not clocked the same amount of flying hours and lack a lot of experience. Neither are they held to the same standards as professional pilots. This could make it more likely that an accident will be due to pilot error or negligent behavior.
In the case of a small plane crash where the passengers on board were injured, those passengers can bring a lawsuit against the pilot and/or the owner of the aircraft if it is determined that negligence or error was the cause of their injuries. In the event of defective parts leading to an accident, plane owners can also seek damages from the manufacturer.
Every case is different, and there are countless elements that could be determined as contributing factors to an airplane crash, regardless of craft size or accident severity. So if you find yourself in need of an attorney, please contact us to schedule an initial consultation.