What Should You Do After an Aviation Crash?
Surviving an aviation crash is usually an incredibly traumatizing experience, especially for those who suffer severe physical injuries or the loss of a loved one. Whether you have been involved in a small airplane crash, a helicopter accident, or a commercial airline crash, you may have a legal claim for your injuries and losses. Hiring the right lawyer – one who is highly knowledgeable and experienced in aviation safety, regulations, and laws – will significantly improve your chances of a successful resolution of your case and a maximum recovery.
The National Trial Lawyers Association recognizes Beasley Allen’s Mike Andrews as one of the Top 10 airplane accident lawyers in the United States for aviation litigation. Mike has successfully litigated many types of aviation accident cases, from small private place crashes and helicopter crashes to large commercial airline cases. He is currently representing family members of some of the passengers who perished in the March 2019 crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302.
The importance of selecting the right lawyer to handle your aviation accident case cannot be overstated. Still, there are many other factors to consider. Even if you have not been involved in an aviation crash but frequently fly for business or recreation, keeping these tips in mind and being prepared can make a big difference in the outcome of your case should you ever need to file a claim.
At the Aviation Crash Scene:
- If you have been involved in an airplane or helicopter crash, you must try to move away from the wreckage if you are physically able to. Air crashes often leave aviation crash victims exposed to substantial fuel spills and the release of other flammable substances that make the risk of an explosion or fire imminent.
- Try to account for others you know to have been on the airplane and call or have someone else call 911 as you assist any others injured if you can. Try to make sure everyone maintains a safe distance from the downed aircraft.
- Observe and note as many details about the airplane crash or helicopter crash as you can. Did you hear any unusual or unexpected noises in the aircraft before the crash? What was the weather like? What actions did the pilot and crew take? Don’t discredit any details because you think they may be irrelevant. Pieces of information that may seem insignificant may help your aviation accident lawyer connect the dots and cast light on potential contributing causes of the crash.
- If you have a phone or other camera, take photographs and video of the crash site, but only if it is safe to do so. Also, take pictures or videos of your injuries. Good photographic documentation of the crash scene often yields essential clues that help the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), your lawyer, and other investigators determine what happened.
Following the Aviation Crash:
- Be sure to follow your doctor’s recommended treatment plans for your injuries, and make sure you keep your follow-up appointments. Your medical records will factor heavily into your claim and the amount of compensation you may receive for your injuries. Also, be sure to avoid any activities that can worsen your injuries.
- If you owned the aircraft, U.S. law requires you to report the crash to the National Transportation Safety Board, the federal agency that investigates civil air crashes. You will also have to contact your insurance provider.
- If you were a passenger on the aircraft, you would need to report the incident and your injuries to your insurance provider.
- Contact a personal injury lawyer who is highly experienced in handling aviation accident cases. If you have been involved in an airplane or helicopter crash, it’s critical that you consult with a knowledgeable and experienced aviation accident lawyer before communicating with the airline or aircraft owner’s insurer or legal team. Remember that the airline’s insurer and legal team are working to protect their client’s interests, not yours. Do not accept any settlement offer without first consulting a lawyer. Most airlines cap their liability to injured parties at $75,000 per person. Accepting compensatory payments from the airline will likely bar you from seeking any further compensation. These obligations may be clear to you or they may be difficult to understand. Whatever your case is, don’t delay in contacting a qualified lawyer. Every state has a statute of limitations that puts a deadline on filing personal injury lawsuits.
If you do not plan to file a claim, it is still important to understand your rights. Consulting an airplane crash lawyer or helicopter crash lawyer will help you guard your interests moving forward.
Looking Ahead after Aviation Accident
In the weeks and months following an airplane crash or helicopter crash, you may be contacted by investigators from the two federal agencies involved in investigating civil aviation crashes, well as other parties seeking information about the accident. Any information you provide to the NTSB and the FAA may inform their official accident reports, which in turn will factor into any litigation surrounding the case. Again, it is crucial that you protect your rights and interests by working with an experience lawyer who will navigate you through the complexities of civil aviation litigation.
What Can an Air Crash Lawyer Do for Me?
Hiring a highly skilled and proven lawyer is the best thing you can do to improve your chances of a successful resolution of your case and maximum recovery. Call Beasley Allen’s Mike Andrews today to discuss your aviation crash claim. Nationally recognized for his achievements in aviation litigation, Mike Andrews is backed by Beasley Allen’s resources and staff of full-time nurses, expert computer specialists, and experienced paralegals, legal secretaries, and assistants.
After an initial consultation to evaluate the merits of your case, which we provide without cost or obligation to you, Beasley Allen will take several measures to move your case forward. These are the steps we will take should we decide to litigate your case and how you may provide a role.
- Investigating your claim: As mentioned previously, any photographs, notes, observations, and other documentation you may have collected at the crash site may prove invaluable in helping your lawyer investigate your case. Don’t discredit any detail as being too minor. A highly experienced aviation attorney will be able to identify how a seemingly insignificant piece of information may provide a major clue. Accident reports from the FAA, NTSB, and other authorities may contain information essential to your case and your lawyer will have to access those reports. If official reports determine that the crash involved violations of U.S. regulations, then the government may assess civil or criminal penalties. An experienced lawyer will know how these reports matter to your case.
- Building your case: Beasley Allen will work to collect evidence that supports your aviation crash case. In addition to the information and materials you provide, we may reach out to other passengers and witnesses for corroborating evidence. We will also obtain letters, emails, and other communications from the aircrafts’ owner and operator, take legal measures to preserve black box recordings, and hire aviation experts and professionals who can testify in support of your claim.
- Determining Liability: Once the cause of the crash is determined, Beasley Allen will determine what parties are liable for your accident. Year after year, pilot error or other human error is the most common cause of airplane and helicopter crashes. For instance, the pilot may have made a fatal decision to fly into a heavy storm or fog bank or may have failed to properly read or use the aircraft’s instruments (operator liability). Or, the aircraft’s mechanic may have failed to inspect and repair a component of the aircraft, clearing it to fly with dangerous flaws (negligence). In such cases, the airline may be held liable. In cases where a defective or damaged aircraft component caused the crash, the aircraft manufacturer and the maker of the faulty component may be held liable (product liability). Lawsuits involving aircraft defects generally lead to substantially higher recoveries for plaintiffs. Beasley Allen’s legal team has the skill and expertise to determine whether you can seek compensation from the aircraft’s manufacturers.
- Estimating damages: If you or a family member have been involved in an airplane or helicopter accident, it’s likely you have incurred substantial medical expenses on top of lost income. When the injuries are debilitating and permanent, the victim will need to seek enough compensation to cover medical bills and lost earnings over the course of a lifetime. Your lawyer may also seek compensation for wrongful death, pain and suffering, disfigurement, funeral expenses, loss of consortium, mental anguish, and other damages on your behalf.
- When a defendant has acted with neglect or other misconduct, your lawyer can seek punitive damages on top of compensatory damages. Punitive damages can effectively hold companies accountable and may discourage them from making the same or similar errors in the future.
Contacting Beasley Allen about Your Aviation Accident Claim
Mike Andrews, a lawyer in Beasley Allen’s Personal Injury and Products Liability group, focuses his practice on aviation accident litigation. The invitation-only National Trial Lawyers organization recently named Mike to the Top Ten Aviation Attorneys List – an accolade that recognizes him as one of the nation’s most qualified airplane crash lawyers. Mike has represented aviation crash victims and the family of those killed in both civilian and military airplane and helicopter crashes.
Mike’s book, “Aviation Litigation & Accident Investigation” offers an overview to other lawyers handling aviation accident cases about the complexities of aviation crash investigation and litigation. The book specifically focuses on aviation industry regulations and complex defenses and provides basic instruction on preserving evidence, insight into legal issues associated with aviation claims, anecdotal instances of military and civilian crashes, and other valuable information to help attorneys mount solid aviation claims.
Beasley Allen has the resources to represent airplane and helicopter crash clients across the country while never losing sight of the individual. If you or a family member have been injured in an aviation accident, we have what it takes to successfully litigate your case.
Let us put our resources to work for you. If you are an attorney, we can competently and conscientiously assist you in handling any group of cases, no matter how large.