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Surviving a Plane Crash: Your Rights to Sue and Seek Compensation

Feb 22, 2024 | Aviation Accident Law

Surviving a plane crash is a terrifying ordeal that no one should ever have to experience. Yet, if you’ve found yourself in this unfortunate situation, you’re likely grappling with a whirlwind of emotions and questions. One of the most pressing may be, “Can I sue?”

The short answer is, yes, you potentially can. But the legal landscape surrounding aviation accidents is complex. It’s filled with international laws, specific aviation regulations, and various parties who could be held responsible. We’ll delve into these complexities to provide you with a clearer understanding.

Key Takeaways

  • Survivors of a plane crash can potentially sue for damages, but the legal landscape surrounding such cases involves complex international laws, specific aviation regulations and determining the responsible parties.
  • The parties liable in an aviation accident can include the airline, aircraft manufacturers, and air traffic control. Negligence, manufacturing defects, operational errors and communication errors can all be grounds for a lawsuit.
  • Understanding international regulations is crucial in aviation lawsuits. Key conventions include the Chicago Convention of 1944 that sets guidelines for international air travel, and the Montreal Convention of 1999 that sets airlines’ liabilities in case of passenger injury or death.
  • Aviation accident cases can involve various liable parties – airlines for their possible operational neglect, maintenance providers for improper repairs, aircraft manufacturers for possible design flaws, and air traffic controllers for their potential guidance errors.
  • The legal process after surviving a plane crash involves filing a formal complaint to initiate the lawsuit, after which discovery phase starts where both parties share supporting evidences. If no settlement is reached, the case goes to court.
  • Compensation for damages can include economic damages for tangible losses, such as medical bills, lost wages, and property damages. Non-economic damages, also known as “pain and suffering”, cover psychological impacts like emotional distress and loss of enjoyment of life.
  • Evidence of culpable negligence i.e., the defendant’s negligence directly resulted in the accident and injuries, can greatly increase the likelihood of a favorable outcome. An experienced aviation accident lawyer is instrumental in navigating this complex process and helping the survivors understand their options.

Understanding Aviation Accident Liability

When delving into the complexities of plane crash litigation, it’s crucial to understand aviation accident liability. There’s no straightforward answer when it comes to pinpointing who’s liable in an aviation accident. Usually, responsibility lies with multiple entities – the airline, the aircraft manufacturer, or even air traffic control could play a part in your case.

The airline is the first entity you might think of. Most times, they’re held accountable for accidents due to negligence. Negligence in aviation incidents usually includes operational errors or pilot mistakes. If it’s the airline’s fault, compensations could be substantial.

However, the aircraft manufacturer can also bear liability if the accident was a result of a product’s fault or design or manufacturing defects. These cases are often more complex because you’re dealing with intricate technical issues and the need for expert testimony. Legal action against manufacturers can be a lengthy and costly process.

Lastly, you can’t overlook air traffic controllers who safely guide aircraft through the airspace. Improper communication, miscalculations, or delays on part of the air traffic control could cause accidents – making them potentially responsible in the eyes of the law.

To get your compensation, you need to prove the fault of these entities. This fault needs to be directly linked to your injuries or damages. While it sounds simple enough, the process is complex and requires extensive legal expertise.

Remember, lawsuits in aviation accidents can be a minefield of complexity – involving international laws, aviation regulations, and multiple potentially responsible parties. It’s not as straightforward as a car accident claim, and usually involves a lot more work. But with the right lawyers on your side, you can navigate these complexities and potentially receive the compensation you deserve.

In the next section, let’s look into the legal avenues available for survivors of plane crashes.

International Laws and Aviation Regulations

Undeniably, aviation regulations are complex matrices of local and international rules—with the latter often taking precedence. International laws play a pivotal role in aviation accident cases and lawsuits, mainly due to the global nature of air travel. A fundamental understanding of these laws is essential if you’re intending to sue post an aviation accident.

One significant international component is the Chicago Convention of 1944, which is overseen by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). This convention established the principles and arrangements for international aviation, with an emphasis on safety, regularity, and efficiency. The ICAO sets strict standards and regulations that govern every aspect of air travel—from safety procedures to training protocols.

The Montreal Convention of 1999 is another crucial legislation. For you, as a survivor of a plane crash, it’s particularly relevant since it unambiguously defines airlines’ liabilities in case of passenger injury or death. This legislation ensures that the airlines cannot refuse responsibility if there is proven negligence or breach of safety standards. This convention sets a two-tier system of compensation: an automatic compensation of up to 113,100 special drawing rights (SDRs) regardless of fault; and an unlimited compensation if you can prove the airline was at fault.

Remember, it’s vitally important to seek the expertise of a specialized aviation lawyer when considering legal action against an airline or any entity involved in aviation accident liability. They can help navigate these complex laws and regulations. Your lawyer can target key areas, construct a compelling case, but more importantly, help you understand your options.

Here’s a summary of key international regulations and their influence:

International LawKey Influence
Chicago Convention of 1944Sets principles and arrangements for international air travel
Montreal Convention of 1999Defines airlines’ liabilities in case of passenger injury or death

You may wonder how these vast sets of rules apply in your specific situation. Each case has its own set of conditions, which can subtly alter how these laws are applied. Deducing how international laws manipulate your case is a task best left to your legal expert.

Parties Potentially Liable for Damages

In aviation accident cases, several parties might bear responsibility for the incident and can be held liable for damages. These could include an airlines company, maintenance providers, aircraft manufacturers, and even air traffic controllers depending on the specifics of the case.

Let’s take a look at why and when these parties can be held accountable:

The airlines might be the first party you’d think of when considering who to hold accountable for an aviation accident. There are several possibilities as to why an airline might be at fault. For example, if they overlook maintenance for their aircraft or inadequate training for its crew, it can lead to disastrous consequences. If found guilty, the airline is liable for the injuries and losses sustained by the passengers.

Maintenance Providers:
Routine maintenance checks of aircraft are paramount in the airline industry. Maintenance providers could be held accountable if negligence or improper repairs contribute to an accident. If you can prove that an aviation crash was due to poor inspections, faulty repairs, or a failure in maintenance, this party could be liable.

Aircraft Manufacturers:
Aircraft manufacturers are obligated to produce a safe and reliable product. If a plane crash occurs due to a manufacturing defect or design flaw, the manufacturer can be held liable. The defect might have been present at the time of manufacture or could have been due to a design error.

Air Traffic Controllers:
Air traffic controllers play a crucial role in maintaining the safe and efficient flow of air traffic. But if a failure to correctly guide the pilot, or an error in judgement, leads to an accident, they can be held liable as well.

So, when you’re exploring your options for suing after surviving an airplane crash, you should be aware of these potential liabilities. Your aviation lawyer will help you navigate through the complexities of determining which party or parties might be at fault, and build a robust case accordingly. Curious about what happens next?

Legal Process for Suing After Surviving a Plane Crash

Navigating the legal intricacies involved in suing after surviving a plane crash can be daunting. Engaging the services of an experienced aviation lawyer to guide you through this process is, of course, highly recommended.

First off, you’ll need to file a complaint. This formal legal document outlines your allegations against the offending parties and what you aim to recoup in terms of damages. It’s your legal counsel’s responsibility to ensure that the complaint correctly identifies all the potentially liable parties as per the previous section of this article.

By filing the complaint, you’re officially starting a lawsuit. The complaint is then served to all the defendant parties. They’re given a specified period, usually 20-30 days, to respond. They have the option to either admit or contest the allegations. Failure to respond can lead to a default judgment in your favor.

After the response period, the discovery phase begins. Here’s where both sides share evidence supporting their claims. Often, critical information is obtained through:

  • Depositions: These are formal, recorded interviews conducted under oath.
  • Interrogatories: These are written questions that must be answered under oath.
  • Requests For Admission: These are factual statements the opposing party must either admit or deny.
  • Requests for Production: These requests are for production of documents or other physical evidence.

While the discovery process is ongoing, your lawyer might engage in settlement discussions with the defendants. It’s not uncommon for cases to be settled before they reach the trial stage. However, if no settlement can be agreed upon, the case heads for trial. Here, the facts will be presented to a judge or a jury who’ll then decide the outcome.

Seeking Compensation for Damages

After the initiation of your lawsuit, you’ll need to start thinking about the type of compensation you’re seeking for your damages. Usually, in aviation accidents, the scope of damages is vast so you’ll have to consider a wide range of possibilities while preparing your demand.

To begin with, economic damages are one of the main components of your compensation. They’re calculated on a tangible basis, making them relatively easy to quantify. Essentially, economic damages refer to the financial consequences you’ve suffered due to the accident. Here’s a breakdown of the common types of economic damages:

  1. Medical bills: This comprises costs incurred for immediate treatment following the accident through to ongoing medical care or rehabilitation.
  2. Lost wages: In cases where you’ve had to miss work or have lost your job due to injury, you can seek compensation for lost income.
  3. Property Damages: If you had personal property on the plane that was damaged or lost, that value can also be recovered.

However, a significant part of your claim may constitute non-economic damages or “pain and suffering”. This term refers to the psychological impact of the accident, and can include mental anguish, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, and similar subjective factors. Pain and suffering are not quantifiable in a monetary sense, but are recognized forms of compensation in legal settlements.

Another crucial factor is your lawyer’s ability to prove culpable negligence on the part of the defendant(s). In other words, showing that the defendant’s negligence directly contributed to the accident and your resulting injuries. This increases the likelihood of a favorable outcome.

Remember, each plane crash case is unique, and the list of potential damages is extensive. An experienced aviation attorney can help you understand all the avenues available, and can guide you through this complicated legal process.


You’ve seen that it’s possible to sue if you survive a plane crash. The key lies in proving the defendant’s negligence and accurately estimating both economic and non-economic damages. Remember, your medical bills, lost wages, and property damages are just as important as your pain and suffering. It’s a complex process, and it’s crucial to get it right. That’s where the experienced aviation attorneys at Katzman, Lampert & Stoll come in. We’ll guide you through the legal maze, ensuring you get the compensation you deserve. Your survival was not by chance, and neither should be your pursuit for justice.

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