Private Plane Accidents In an Accident Caused By Pilot Error?

Private Plane Lawsuits

There are few things more terrifying than being injured in a plane crash. When you board a plane, you trust that the plane is built suitably, that the pilot is qualified and that you can enjoy this mode of transportation in a safe and efficient manner. In the wake of an airplane accident, there are many questions that need to be answered regarding where the crash occurred, whether you should file individually or as a class action suit, etc. According to data from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the majority of civil aviation accidents involve private airplanes.

In a recent wrongful death suit, the family members of a deceased father and son whose plane crashed while they flew towards Moloka'i, received $3.5 million in damages. After the National Transportation Safety Board examined the accident, it found that "…the flight crew made several mistakes during its approach to Moloka'i, including selecting the wrong frequency for activating pilot-controlled runway lighting, concluding that the airport was obscured by clouds despite weather information to the contrary, misstating instrument approach headings and descent altitudes and descending below appropriate altitudes."

Private Pilots' Duty of Care

Airlines have unlimited damage liability, but can show that they took "all necessary measures" to prevent an accident, which could shield them from some degree of liability. While commercial airlines are considered common carriers (and can thus be held legally responsible for any negligence on their part), private pilots are not required by federal law to maintain a strict standard of care towards passengers. The standard that private pilots are held to is called "common negligence standard." This standard requires private pilots to use "due diligence and reasonable care to prevent an accident or injury."

A private pilot is expected to possess the same knowledge and skills as a commercial pilot. His/her actions will be compared to how a "reasonable pilot" would act under the same circumstances. Under "vicarious liability," when a private pilot causes a plane accident, the injured party can sue the aircraft owner as well.

Factors that Lead to a Plane Crash

Parties that are frequently sued in the aftermath of a plane crash include the pilots, the airline, the owner of the aircraft, the manufacturer, the aircraft maintenance provider, the government, and airport operators. Several varying factors can lead to a plane crash, anything from pilot error to mechanical error to weather to air traffic control errors to a design flaw.

According to statistics from 1950 to 2006, the most common factors that lead to a plane accident are:

  • 53%- Pilot error- This can include incorrect use of aircraft equipment, errors in navigation, miscommunication with traffic controllers, inadequate monitoring of speed and altitude, failure to manage fuel levels and failure to follow procedures
  • 21%-Mechanical error
  • 11%-Weather
  • 8%- Other human error
  • 6%-Sabotage
  • 1%- Other causes

Surprisingly, some statistics say that pilot error actually accounts for 83% of private aircraft accidents. Private plane accidents tend to be more challenging than a commercial aircraft lawsuit. Because private aircraft don't have "black boxes" and undergo much less rigorous certification procedures, accidents can occur more frequently. In these instances, victims are often entitled to pecuniary (economic) damages and non-pecuniary (non-economic) damages.

Most of the time, plane accidents occur when a plane is taking off, landing, or still on the runway. Plane accidents don't always involve crashes- they can involve a person tripping on the stairs, baggage shifting and falling, assault on an airplane, etc. Liability law for general aviators states that an airplane owner can be held responsible if a passenger is hurt by an object falling during flight. If you were injured in a private plane accident, as the result of another party's negligence, or if you lost a loved one in a plane accident, contact Arnold & Itkin LLP today to secure an aggressive personal injury attorney on your side today!

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