Common Causes of Airplane Accidents
Common contributing factors in most aviation accidents include:
- Pilot mistakes. This most common cause of aviation accidents accounts for around half of all plane crashes. Despite modern innovations that automate many features of air travel, flying a plane is still among the most complicated and difficult jobs available. Pilots are in charge of overseeing dozens of gauges and readouts throughout each flight. Pilots should not necessarily be blamed for every accident, but any slight miscalculation or misreading can result in a deadly crash.
- Mechanical defects. Planes are a tremendous execution of engineering, with hundreds of separate systems in each. A failure or malfunction in any one of these systems can lead to a catastrophic situation. This includes defects, inadequate repairs and old or worn out parts.
- Harsh weather conditions. Flying becomes more dangerous in bad weather just like it does with driving. Heavy rainstorms, fog and snow can lead to visibility issues, high winds and skidding during take off, which are among the most dangerous weather-related threats to aircrafts. When airplanes have difficulty maneuvering, deadly accidents are much more likely.
- Air traffic controller mistakes. Pilots count on the information and support provided from air traffic controllers while in the air. Air traffic controllers often have to take factors such as weather and fuel into consideration when scheduling takeoffs and landings for multiple different planes. Any error made has the potential to result in an accident, potentially involving more than one plane.
- Other causes. There are many other factors that can contribute and have contributed to aviation accidents. Some surprisingly common factors are sabotage, poor runway maintenance and birds. If a large bird collides with an airplane’s windscreen or engine, it can cause damage that could contribute to a plane crash.
The National Transportation Safety Board
The National Transportation Safety Board, or NTSB, is a federal investigatory board whose mandate is to ensure safe public transportation. They are responsible for investigating accidents, conducting studies and making recommendations to federal agencies and the transportation industry. The Independent Safety Board Act gave the NTSB sole responsibility for investigating airline crashes.
The use of NTSB reports in court, however, has been controversial. The reports are released to the public under federal law as the intention is to be used to prevent future accidents from occuring. But, they are forbidden by law to a certain extent from being used in civil lawsuits. The Civil Aeronautics Board, or CAB, stated “No part of any report or reports of the National Transportation Safety Board relating to any accident or the investigation thereof, shall be admitted as evidence or used in any suit or action for damages growing out of any matter mentioned in such report or reports.”
Although, courts have permitted civil litigants to use some NTSB aircraft accident report information, and some regulations have shifted in response. Only probable cause reports are firmly impermissible in civil lawsuits, and NTSB representatives are permitted only to testify to factual matters surrounding their investigations.
Determining Cause & Liability in Aviation Accidents
Any party whose negligent actions either caused or contributed to an aviation crash can be held legally liable for the accident. Assigning liability following a plane crash is often a difficult and drawn-out legal matter requiring lengthy and complicated investigatory processes. The NTSB’s investigations normally determine what caused the accident.
Airlines can be held liable for an accident if investigators determine that pilot mistakes or improper maintenance led to the crash. Airlines and individual pilots have a heightened duty of care to keep their passengers safe from harm. Suing an airline for liability as common carriers can be done by proving that a breach in that duty of care occurred and caused the accident.
What Legal Rights Do I Have After an Aviation Accident?
You may have a right to recover monetary damages from those parties responsible for causing the accident. You have a right to bring a lawsuit for an aviation accident if you are injured as a result, the spouse of a person injured as a result, the legal guardian or a person injured as a result, the personal representative of the person injured as a result, the next of kin of a person killed as a result, or are in the “zone of danger” to experience emotional harm due to the accident.
Wrongful death cases arising from an airplane accident vary widely among the states, with some jurisdictions only permitting recovery for financial losses and some for noneconomic losses. The Florida law offices of Panter, Panter & Sampedro have successfully represented clients in domestic and international cases involving commercial and private airplane crashes.
If you or someone you love has been injured or killed as a result of an plane accident, call the experienced Panter, Panter, & Sampedro aviation accident attorneys for counsel on the specific circumstances of the incident.