From 2013 to 2015, 703 small or private general aviation aircraft crashed in the United States which resulted in nearly 1,000 deaths. Federal regulations are far less strenuous in general aviation than in commercial aviation. Families & their lawyers face steep challenges when bringing lawsuits:
- The aviation and insurance industries have convinced the general public that most of these crashes are caused exclusively by pilot error, when in fact pilot error is usually not the sole causal factor.
- When a crash happens, the National Transportation Safety Board immediately takes custody of the wreckage & includes aircraft and component product manufacturers—the very same entities that could be liable for the crash—as party representatives in the investigation.
- Small planes typically do not have flight data recorders or cockpit voice recorders, “black boxes,” to help investigators determine the causes of a crash.
- Because there are so many crashes for the NTSB to investigate, it often takes them over two years to publish their findings.
- In most states, a personal injury or wrongful death action must be filed within 2 years, with a few states having a 1 year statute of limitations.
- The General Aviation Revitalization Act shields airplane, engine, and component manufacturers from liability when their products turn 18 years old.
- Pilots, flying clubs, maintenance facilities, and even flight schools may not be insured or carry minimal coverage.
Businesses that rent small planes and other aircraft to pilots often include waivers, releases, or limitation of liability clauses in their rental or membership agreements. Law varies from state-to-state as to the enforceability of these waivers and limitation of liability clauses. Recently, Napoli Shkolnik aviation attorneys represented a surviving victim of an Ultralight plane crash in a lawsuit in California state court. The Ultralight crashed shortly after its engine failed in flight. One of the Defendant flying clubs had what they thought was an ironclad waiver of liability that would stop the lawsuit dead in its tracks. Our plane crash attorneys combined an understanding of aviation maintenance best and (worst) practices with superior legal skill to identify several grossly negligent maintenance actions and shoot .50 caliber-sized legal holes in the waiver’s enforceability. In that case proving negligence was not enough. We had to expose grossly negligent and reckless conduct when the maintenance records did not tell the whole story.
Napoli Shkolnik plane crash attorneys understand the unique challenges relating to these types of aviation law cases. Our initial investigation and case evaluation is thorough. Led by Hunter Shkolnik, our aviation attorneys have decades of experience handling small plane crash lawsuits. Contact Napoli Shkolnik and talk to one of our aviation attorneys.