On average there are three general aviation aircraft accidents per day in the United States (as compared to airline accidents, which are far fewer in number). The government’s investigation of accidents involving civilian aircraft in the United States is conducted by the National Transportation Safety Board. And it’s not what you think. The NTSB is a relatively small government organization, and it is by every measure understaffed.
Upon opening an investigation, the NTSB assigns an Investigator-in- Charge (“IIC”), who then immediately contacts the manufacturers of the aircraft, the engines, the propellors (if propellor driven) and when relevant, the avionics. An aircraft crash investigator from each manufacturer then becomes a formal “participant” in the government’s investigation. Yes, the NTSB invites the manufacturers to be a part of the investigation into the performance or failure of their own products. It is very much the fox watching the hen house. NTSB investigators can speculate, they can rely on a manufacturer, and do get the cause of a crash wrong.
The USA Today newspaper authored an article called “Safety Last: Lies and Coverups Mask Roots of Small-Plane Carnage.” In that article, the USA Today investigative reporter discussed several cases handled by the lawyers at Katzman, Lampert & Stoll. The article discusses several horrific accidents that the NTSB blamed on pilot error, that were eventually disclosed to be caused by defective products. Click here to read the article.
The NTSB frequently takes almost two years to conduct its investigations. While there is some variation state-by-state, most wrongful death and personal injury statutes of limitation (the time by which a lawsuit must be filed) in the United States are two years. So, the NTSB, assisted by the manufacturers’ representatives, frequently run the investigation right up to the point where a lawsuit will be untimely when filed with the court.
During this time, you can expect periodic updates from the NTSB. However, these periodic updates are not informative. NTSB investigators do not reveal their opinions until the final report is published.
You can expect us to press the NTSB to release the aircraft’s wreckage so that it can be inspected by our own team of experts. It is at this point when questions the NTSB is not answering for you likely become answered. In some cases, several wreckage inspections are necessary, and a laboratory inspection is needed. Whatever the case may be, we stand ready to protect your rights.
Once a lawsuit is filed you can expect periodic updates. Your participation in the litigation process includes providing information, attending a deposition, and if necessary, attending trial. We do our best to make the process seamless for you and not to exacerbate the pain and grief you may already suffer.
In the end, we cannot erase the past or heal your injuries. The legal system permits an accident victim to receive just and fair financial compensation when injuries or death are caused by the fault of another. It is our duty to ethically obtain the highest amount of compensation. We recognize the risks inherent to each case. We understand the strengths of proceeding to trial. Our experience is extensive, and we provide the benefit of our guidance to each of our clients.