A private plane accident case is complex and involves unique laws within the aviation industry. The aviation accident attorneys at Panish, Shea & Boyle LLP have years of experience in this practice area. Our law firm has maintained a success rate that is over 99 percent and obtained more than $800 million for clients in the past five years alone.
Find out how we can help you after a devastating aviation accident involving a private plane. Our experienced attorneys can determine cause, prove fault and fight for maximum financial compensation on your behalf. Discuss your case in more detail today during a free consultation with an aviation accident attorney.
Why Choose Us
- Over the years, we have earned a reputation for excellence among our peers and clients. We are renowned aviation accident attorneys in California and nationwide due to the quality of our work and the record results that we have secured.
- We have trial experience that can help you obtain maximum financial compensation for your aviation accident case. Although most cases reach settlements, if your case has to go to trial, our attorneys are prepared to represent you before a judge and jury.
- We make pursuing a private plane crash case affordable by operating on a contingency fee basis. This means that you will only pay our attorney’s fees if we succeed in obtaining compensation for you and your family for an aviation accident.
Private Plane Accident Facts
Although flying on an airplane is seen as statistically safer than driving a vehicle, there is an important distinction between private planes and commercial aircrafts. According to recent data compiled by the National Travel and Safety Board (NTSB), private airplanes are far more dangerous by an order of magnitude. On a large, commercial airliner, fewer than 0.01 fatalities per 100,000 hours flying occur. On private aviation craft, however, that ratio jumps to more than 2.3 fatalities per 100,000 hours flown. In other words, you are 200 times more likely to die while flying on a private plane than you are while flying on a commercial airliner. And according to Live Science, when averaging out fatalities for flight time, the numbers suggest that stepping on a private aircraft is almost 20 times more dangerous than getting behind the wheel of a car.
Causes of Private Plane Crashes
Many different hazards that can occur at any stage of the flight, from takeoff to landing, can cause a private plane accident. There are many reasons why private flying is more dangerous than other forms of air travel:
- Pilot training: Commercial aviation crew must undergo strict licensing, bonding, and education to carry passengers. Private pilots also must demonstrate and keep up their skills, but most private crews don’t fly every day. Plus, most private planes simply don’t have the kinds of backup systems and emergency procedures that commercial airlines do.
- Distractions: The majority of accidents come down to pilot error and in private planes, specifically distraction and loss of control. For example, a private plane crash in Colorado in 2015 was due to the 29 year old pilot taking pictures in the cockpit, even though he had over 726 total hours of flight time.
- Flight Location: Private flyers tend to travel to “more exotic” destinations and follow unique flight paths; whereas commercial airliners stick to the major highways and byways of the sky. Bad weather and unfamiliar territory make plane accidents more probable and expose the weakness in a pilot’s knowledge, training, or overall skill.
- Maintenance Regulations: Private airlines are on average subject to far fewer aircraft maintenance regulations than are commercial airliners and jets which undergo regular checks and inspections between flights.
If one or more parties reasonably could have prevented your private plane crash, that party may be responsible for your injuries and losses.
Crash Statistics 2010-2018
Source: National Transportation Safety Board
Why Private Planes Are More Dangerous Than Commercial Planes
Private jets or charter planes may offer luxury, privacy, and convenience for those who can afford their services, but it is essential for anyone traveling by private plane to consider the risks. The hazards of flying on a small plane are comparative to driving in a typical car, mostly due to the dangers of private air travel. “Private air travel” refers to all domestic civilian flights except scheduled commercial flights. The rate of aviation accidents in private air travel has remained mostly unchanged for a decade.
Risk Factors for Private Planes
Commercial airlines use robust networks of many employees to handle their flights. Larger airlines are capable of accommodating full planes of passengers on tight schedules thanks to their back-end support. Private planes are generally personal assets, so owners of private airplanes either act as their own pilots or hire private pilots. Passengers of private planes are then at the mercy of their pilots’ skill and capabilities in the face of severe weather and other hazards. Private planes are luxurious but lack the failsafe features and hardiness of larger aircraft. Small planes are far more likely to suffer catastrophic damage from severe weather, birds flying into engine turbines, and other flying hazards.
Pilot error is the most commonly cited reason for private airplane crashes; specifically, loss of control of the aircraft. Since most private pilots are contractors, they wait on clients’ needs and head to the runway when it’s time to fly. There generally isn’t a set schedule, or rotating set of pilots to ensure regularity and shift coverage. An unprepared pilot called for a flight may put his or her passengers at risk or an airplane accident if he or she is not in a suitable state to fly. Pilots who attempt to fly small private aircraft while under the influence, while fatigued, or otherwise impaired, put the plane and everyone on board at serious risk of an aviation accident.
Privately owned planes often don’t have the same technological assets as larger commercial aircraft. While some people, such as celebrities and wealthy businesspeople own private planes, these individuals often opt for luxury and amenities over technical reliability. Pilot error and bad weather are the most common reasons for losing control of an aircraft while in flight, and larger planes are equipped with sensors that can help pilots make better decisions in dangerous flying conditions. A private plane pilot is at the mercy of the plane’s capabilities, which are generally limited in comparison.
Who Can Be Held Liable For a Private Plane Crash?
While the odds of surviving an aviation accident are very slim, several individuals have done so in recent years. If you or a loved one is a victim of a private plane crash, you may be eligible for financial recovery from one or more parties. The liable party will most likely be the one that was negligent. Negligence in personal injury law is the failure to act with reasonable care, resulting in harm or injuries to others.
Determining liability requires identifying the cause of the private plane crash, as well as the party or parties that were negligent and caused the accident. Common liable parties are:
- Plane Owner. Private plane owners will typically incur liability for any harm that befalls passengers despite the fact that private planes are not beholden to the same regulatory requirements that commercial aircraft must follow. It is the owner’s responsibility to ensure the reasonable safety of passengers, such as by inspecting the aircraft, keeping it properly maintained and using competent pilots.
- The pilot. If the pilot is not the same party that owns the private aircraft, his or her personal insurance company could be liable if a pilot error caused the crash. If the pilot failed to keep a proper lookout, was distracted, made poor decisions in flight or otherwise behaved negligently, the pilot could be responsible for the accident.
- Aircraft manufacturer or seller. If a defect with the private plane’s manufacture, design or marketing contributed to the crash, the manufacturer or distributor of the aircraft could be held liable through the laws of product liability. A product liability lawsuit allows an injured consumer to claim compensation for a defective part or product.
- Aircraft mechanic or maintenance team. If an investigation traces a private plane crash back to a part that broke down or malfunctioned in flight, the maintenance team or aircraft mechanic responsible for plane repairs or maintenance may be liable. It is the mechanic’s duty to work on a plane in accordance with industry standards.
- The government. It may be possible to file a lawsuit against the federal government for an airplane accident that is caused by a federal employee, such as an air traffic control officer or someone who works for the Federal Aviation Administration. These cases come with unique rules and shorter deadlines, making it especially important to work with an attorney.
In some cases, multiple defendants can share liability for a private plane crash. This can increase the odds of recovering fair compensation for your accident from multiple insurance companies.
If you or someone you know has suffered injuries, property damage, or other losses due to a private plane accident, it’s essential to connect with a reliable attorney as soon as possible. A private plane crash lawyer will help you deduce the parties liable for the crash and help cultivate a solid case.
Establishing Liability in a Private Plane Accident Claim
As a plaintiff in an aviation accident lawsuit, you are required to establish liability before you can recover financial compensation. The burden of proof rests with you or your lawyer as the injured party. In personal injury law, the burden of proof is a preponderance of the evidence, or clear and convincing evidence that a defendant is more likely to be liable than not liable. This is a lesser standard of proof than in criminal law. Establishing a defendant’s liability typically requires proof of four elements:
- A duty of care was owed. The defendant must have owed the plaintiff a duty to exercise care, such as an airplane owner’s duty to properly inspect all of the pieces of an aircraft before each flight.
- A breach of the duty of care occurred. The defendant must be guilty of a breach of duty, or an act or omission that falls short of the accepted amount of care.
- The breach of duty was the proximate cause of the airplane accident. The defendant’s wrongful or negligent act must be the proximate, or main, cause of the aircraft accident.
- The victim suffered compensable losses. The plaintiff must have suffered real and specific losses in the event, such as physical injuries, a loved one’s wrongful death or property damage.
Evidence that may be used to support these elements includes an accident report, investigative report, photographs, video footage, eyewitness statements, expert testimony, data and records, and medical evidence. With the right resources, such as experience in aviation accident law and expert plane crash investigators, it is possible to determine cause and fault. At Panish, Shea & Boyle LLP, we have what it takes to assign fault and prove liability for a private plane accident, including collecting evidence of negligence.
What Can You Recover With a Private Plane Crash Claim?
Although nothing can take back the injuries, emotional distress and losses that you suffered in a private plane crash, filing a lawsuit can allow you to hold someone accountable and receive justice for the disaster. A successful lawsuit could also pay you and your family for the significant losses and expenses related to the accident. The types of compensation that a victim can recover with a claim may include:
- Medical costs. The past and future medical expenses associated with your accident, including surgeries, medications, medical devices, physical therapy, rehabilitation and psychological counseling.
- Lost wages. Any lost wages and other employment benefits from missing time at work because of the plane crash, including time taken off to recover from an injury as well as the permanent inability to return to work due to a disability.
- Pain and suffering. The noneconomic losses caused by the crash, such as psychological trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder, mental anguish, emotional distress, fear, inconvenience, lost quality of life, loss of consortium, and physical pain and suffering.
- Property damage. If a negligent pilot or maintenance crew member is responsible for crashing a private plane that you owned, you could recoup the costs of damage to the aircraft. You could also be eligible for compensation for other lost personal property, such as electronics.
- Wrongful death benefits. If a loved one passed away in a private plane crash, surviving family members may be eligible for compensation for lost earnings, inheritance, companionship, and more.
The financial compensation, or damages, for a private plane crash can be immense. This is because plane accidents rarely only cause minor injuries, and the value of a claim is based on the severity of the victim’s losses. Unfortunately, an insurance company may try to diminish your claim’s value to save money on your payout. This is why it is important to discuss your plane accident claim with an experienced attorney before you accept a settlement. An attorney will fight for the amount that you deserve for your economic and noneconomic losses.
Contact Us For Financial Compensation After an Airplane Crash
“Reasons abound as to why private flying is more dangerous. One primary factor is pilot training.”
To seek remuneration for damages that you or a loved one suffered from a private plane crash, you need tried and tested legal representation.
These are complex cases that deserve attention from an experienced lawyer who will work closely with you to protect your best interests and achieve your case goals. Hiring an aviation crash attorney if you or a loved one was involved in an airplane accident can come with benefits such as:
- Answers that you can trust for your legal questions and concerns.
- A thorough investigation of the plane accident from a party that is on your side.
- The collection of key evidence, such as an accident report and medical records.
- Interviews with eyewitnesses and expert witnesses.
- Aggressive representation during insurance settlement negotiations or a personal injury trial.
- Assistance with the claims process from beginning to end.
- The best possible financial outcome for your case.
- Peace of mind to focus on healing while your lawyer handles legal matters.
The right attorney can make an enormous difference to your private plane crash case. Learn more about how a lawyer can help you during an initial case evaluation at our law firm.
The aviation accident attorneys at Panish | Shea | Boyle | Ravipudi LLP welcome the opportunity to discuss your matter with you for free and at zero-obligation. Connect with an associate now at (877) 800-1700 and let our private plane crash attorneys help you strategize your best legal options moving forward.