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Can Air Traffic Controllers Be Liable for Plane Crashes?

The aviation industry requires many moving parts to operate smoothly. One of the most important roles remains on the ground during the flight: air traffic controllers. Air traffic controllers facilitate flights using technology, making sure all aircraft are coming and going according to a tightly controlled plan so as not to collide. If an air traffic controller is negligent in some way that contributes to a serious incident, that person (and/or the company) could be liable for damages. Here are the rules for third-party plane crash liability.

What is an Air Traffic Controller?

Air traffic controllers are responsible for the safe and efficient flying of air traffic. Controllers use radios to tell pilots where to travel, how fast to go, and when to take off and land. They carefully keep track of where each aircraft is in the sky using radar technology. Much of what a controller does is through technology and relatively simple controls; however, the price of not paying attention can be immense. Traffic controllers need to stay on top of their jobs and deal with changing flight plans immediately to prevent deadly collisions and mistakes.

In the event of bad weather, an emergency landing, or unscheduled air traffic, it is the controller’s duty to navigate the situation calmly and effectively to minimize the risk of accidents. Air traffic controllers receive years of training before they can handle terminal control operations. Their skills and abilities are critical to ensure safe and efficient air travel. An error anywhere along the line of air traffic control could mean disaster for those taxiing or in the air. In these types of plane crashes, the controllers could be liable.

Laws Establishing Air Traffic Controller Liability

In 1952, the states signed a “Convention on Damage” called the Rome Convention. This legal instrument established the liability of “Third Parties on the Ground” for plane crashes, although it didn’t make the matter entirely clear. Next, the Chicago Convention held that it is the responsibility of each state to create their own laws and agreements regarding air travel and the airspace over their territories. The result has been major gray areas in terms of air traffic controller liability for aviation accidents in the U.S.

After an aviation accident that causes injuries or deaths, many different parties will investigate what happened. The National Transportation Safety Board, the Federal Aviation Agency, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation may all work together to pinpoint the reason for the accident. Determining the exact cause of the crash can take black box data, eyewitness interviews, advice from experts, and more. If the investigation finds that ultimately an air traffic controller is to blame, that person and/or the company he/she works for could be legally accountable.

An air traffic controller could be responsible for a crash based on the legal theory of negligence. Negligence lawsuits are the most common in aviation accidents that stem from human error, such as an incompetent pilot making a bad landing. It is up to the injured victim to prove the air traffic controller’s negligence by showing that a “reasonable and prudent” professional in the same situation would have prevented the crash. This will generally require assistance from experienced aviation accident attorneys.

Don’t Handle an Aviation Accident Alone

The majority of plane crashes stem from multiple factors. An air traffic controller’s negligence could be just one contributing cause. If you or a loved one suffered injuries in a plane crash in California, don’t try to handle your claim alone. These are some of the most complex types of personal injury accidents and require professional attention. Find out if you have the power to hold a negligent air traffic controller liable for your damages during a legal consultation in LA. Contact the airline accident attorneys at Panish Shea & Boyle, LLP about your case today! (877) 800-1700

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