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Who Is Responsible in Aviation Accidents?

February 16, 2017 · FLEMING | NOLEN | JEZ, L.L.P.

Whether you’re flying in an airplane, helicopter, or another type of flight-capable machine, experiencing an accident should be the last thing on your mind. In 2015, there were 123 aviation accidents total in the United States, which included 29 fatalities compared to 3,132 people killed and 198,951 people injured in traffic accidents that same year. Generally, flying is pretty safe, but accidents do happen. If you were unlucky enough to be involved in aviation accident, it helps to know something about litigation, and who’s responsible for the accident.

The People and Processes Involved

Aviation is a highly controlled field. From the manufacturer to the pilot to the passengers, many laws and regulations are in place to protect everyone involved. After all, flight has been in practice since the Wright brothers first managed powered flight in 1903. It can be a long process to determine who, if anyone, is culpable of causing the accident.

It is the manufacturer and distributor that is responsible for ensuring no parts are defective before the part or aircraft is sold. Product liability is strict, holding the makers of the machine responsible for the sound quality of all its pieces. Design defect, manufacturing defect, and failure-to-warn laws all protect people from faulty parts or misunderstandings in their use.

After leaving the manufacturer or distributor, the responsibility then falls on the owner of the aircraft, which can include individuals or airlines. Many safeguards exist in large organizations such as airlines, and it is up to them to maintain the highest standards of care for the machines under their control. If an airline employee, for example, fails to fuel the aircraft, they or their employer are responsible for any accidents that occur for that act of negligence.

Pilots, too, take on responsibility for the safety of the aircraft passengers and for maintaining the quality of the aircraft. The owner of the aircraft assumes a certain amount of responsibility, but, in particular circumstances, or once damages have reached a certain amount, the pilot is liable. Pilots who have committed serious negligence can face both civil and criminal charges.

If you’re unsure about where liability falls in your particular case, call our experienced aviation accident attorneys at (713) 621-7944 or contact us online for a free consultation.