While automobile accidents are far more common, many people avoid flying for fear of air accidents by the airline. Unlike auto accidents, when a major airplane accident occurs, the outcome is typically grave for passengers. Victims, or the families of anyone who dies, may file a claim against the airline. In some cases, it might also be necessary to sue the aircraft owner or manufacturer. What Are Common Causes of Commercial Airline Accidents? A primary matter in airplane accident litigation is determining what caused the crash. Common causes of airplane accidents include defective construction or design, faulty repair or maintenance, mistakes by air traffic controllers, negligent hiring and supervision, and pilot error. How Do You Hold an Airline or Aircraft Owner Liable in an Airline Accident? Airlines are common carriers. A common carrier is a company that holds itself out to the public as willing to carry all passengers for hire. In the event of an accident, liability may arise because of this status. Liability may also arise out of the airline’s contract with its passengers, or from any express or implied warranty regarding the safety of the aircraft. Negligence Common carriers have a duty of care to their passengers. As a common carrier, the law imposes this same duty on airlines. When airlines breach their duty of care and said breach causes an accident, airlines are liable for the resulting harm. While most courts hold an airline to a high degree of care, it is important to note that airlines are not considered to be insurers of passenger safety. Rather, airlines are only responsible for acts of negligence. Negligent Entrustment A claim for negligent entrustment focuses on an airplane owner’s decision to lease its plane to the airline. It may also encompass an airplane lessor’s failure to adequately monitor the aircraft’s operations after the lease takes effect. Negligent entrustment requires a plaintiff to establish: (1) that the owner of the aircraft entrusted it to an operator it knew or had reason to know was incompetent or unfit; and (2) that the aircraft operator’s incompetency was a proximate cause of the accident. Next, let’s look at negligent bailment. Negligent Bailment Negligent entrustment lawsuits focus on the lessor’s negligence in providing its airplane to an unfit operator. In comparison, negligent bailment lawsuits focus on the lessor’s negligence in providing a defective airplane to the operator. This is somewhat akin to product liability lawsuits—except here, the aircraft lessor must have acted negligently. In comparison, product liability lawsuits do not require fault. An aircraft lessor may be liable to a third person passenger if: (1) they supplied the aircraft at issue; (2) the aircraft was defective at the time it was supplied; (3) the defect could have been discovered by a reasonable inspection; and (4) the defect was the proximate cause of the accident. A plaintiff must be able to show all four elements for their lawsuit to succeed. Product Liability Aviation product liability lawsuits typically target aviation manufacturers and focus on aircraft defects. A common issue in these lawsuits is whether the accident occurred by pilot error, product defect, or a combination of both. Note that product liability claims are a form of strict liability. Because of the inherently dangerous nature of airplanes, a defendant may be liable for a defect that caused a crash even if they acted responsibly. Defective Product A number of things can go haywire on an airplane. Common defects that cause accidents include improper or incomplete maintenance conducted by a repair facility, negligent operation by a prior operator that creates a defect in the airplane, or the manufacturer’s own conduct in failing to maintain the aircraft before the sale or in between leases. Failure to Warn As discussed above, strict product liability is not concerned with whether the manufacturer acted reasonably. Under a failure to warn strict products liability theory, a plaintiff only needs to prove that the defendant failed to adequately warn them of the risk. Said risk must be known or knowable in light of the information available at the time of manufacture and distribution. Breach of Warranty An action for breach of warranty is another kind of strict product liability lawsuit. It is appropriate where an airplane malfunction causes an accident. In these instances, the passenger may claim that the airline breached its express or implied warranty about the safety of its aircraft. An Experienced Aviation Law Firm That Will Fight for You The law entitles surviving family members of aviation crash victims to money damages including loss of consortium (companionship), lost future income, and more. Due to the traumatic nature of airline accidents, the process of searching for an attorney and going through the claims process can be overwhelming. Whether it be filing your claim or litigating your case in court, the Law Office of Chuck Geerhart is here for you every step of the way. We provide our clients with personalized attention, and tailored strategies to recover the full damages they deserve. Contact us today for a free consultation.Keep Reading
San Francisco Personal Injury Attorney
When you choose Chuck Geerhart, you're choosing to be represented by one of the finest trial lawyers in California. You're choosing personal attention from start to finish. And, you're choosing to never be passed off to a paralegal or junior lawyer.
- A friend recommended Chuck Geerhart. It was an excellent recommendation.
As a British journalist, recently based in San Francisco and without medical insurance, things seemed pretty messy after I found myself in an airport shuttle, driven by a lunatic, who struck a parked cab. I had to go to hospital, who diagnosed a head injury – as, later, did a neurologist – but the shuttle company’s insurance company continually balked at paying the bills.
A friend recommended Chuck Geerhart. It was an excellent recommendation. He was a great lawyer to have on my side, persistent in his battles with the insurance company, supportive of his client and a pleasure to work with, resolving the claim with the minimum of fuss.Susan
- Chuck made sure I was fairly compensated for this life altering injury.
I was working as an air traffic controller at SFO when a notoriously faulty elevator slammed to a stop between floors, throwing me against the wall and rupturing discs in my neck. I had to have major surgery on my neck. The City and the elevator maintenance company denied liability, until Chuck Geerhart obtained copies of all prior repair records which showed the elevator was continually resetting due to a power supply issue.
During the discovery phase of the case, to protect my privacy rights, he filed a motion with court to block a subpoena issued by the defense that sought to obtain my complete confidential employment file and complete health history in violation of the law. We ultimately settled the case for $1,000,000 after mediation.
I feel that Chuck did a great job making sure I was fairly compensated for this life-altering injury.Denise
- Chuck Geerhart dealt with my case in the most humane way I could imagine.
I was fortunate to have been referred to Chuck Geerhart when I was dealing with a very painful and tragic case of abuse by religious leadership, which was stretched over five years.Frank
Chuck Geerhart dealt with my case in the most humane way I could imagine. He was intelligent and strategic in his approach, always very communicative; an attentive ear, fearless and confident support for someone who was very confused and seeking answers where there were only walls. He always involved me in the process, sharing crucial information with me and allowing me the time and space to decide and move forward. He treated me like a partner, which helped me recover the power that was taken away from me.
At the same time he provided the professional expertise which I needed in order to win the case. The process of winning this case was as empowering as the actual outcome. It was a healing experience in itself. I am very happy with the support and guidance I got from Chuck as well as with the monetary result from such a serious injury. It has truly helped me move on in a good way.
Meet Chuck Geerhart
Chuck Geerhart was admitted to the California bar in 1989, and is a graduate of Cornell University and the UCLA Law School. He has tried 16 cases to jury verdict. He has also sat as a juror in three cases in San Francisco County. Chuck is a longtime member of the Board of Directors of the San Francisco Trial Lawyers Association (SFTLA), and will be SFTLA President in 2022. Chuck is a member of the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA), an invitation-only organization of premier trial lawyers who have tried at least 10 jury cases to verdict.
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From the Blog
According to recent statistics, drunk driving makes up over 33% of the state’s traffic fatalities. California has over 1,000 drunk driving fatalities per year. With numbers approaching epidemic levels, many Californian drivers may worry whether they will be next to have their lives permanently altered at the hands of a careless individual. I Got Hit By a Drunk Driver; What Is the Legal Limit in California? California law prohibits the operation of motor vehicles while an individual is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. A person is guilty of DUI for either (1) impairment by drugs or alcohol while driving, or (2) a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) over the legal limit. Under California Vehicle Code 23152, it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher. Commercial vehicle operators may not operate a vehicle with a BAC of 0.04% or higher. Drivers under 21 may not operate a vehicle with a BAC of 0.01% or higher. I Was Hit by a Drunk Driver; Can I Sue? Many clients ask, “I was hit by a drunk driver with no insurance. What do I do?” If you don’t have uninsured motorist insurance and the at-fault driver doesn’t have insurance, you would typically file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver. To recover for injuries sustained in a DUI accident, you must bring a civil negligence lawsuit against the at-fault party. To establish a claim for negligence, a plaintiff must show that the defendant failed to use reasonable care while driving or was negligent per se. In California, a driver is negligent per se if they: Are under the influence at the time of the accident; Have a BAC over the legal limit; or Refuse to take a BAC chemical test. Another key element to holding a DUI driver liable for negligence is proving by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant caused the injuries sustained in the accident. For example, it may be difficult to establish causation if the injured plaintiff was speeding through a yellow light at the time of impact. I Got Hit by a Drunk Driver; What Am I Entitled To? California law permits the recovery of both compensatory and punitive damages for injuries sustained in a DUI accident. Compensatory damages include both economic and non-economic damages. The following categories are generally recoverable in California Medical Expenses In California, courts regularly order drivers who wrongfully injure another to pay the injured party’s medical bills. The responsible party or their insurance company may make the payment. Automobile Repair Costs California vehicle owners with damaged automobiles are entitled to be made whole. Typically, they may collect against the at-fault party, the at-fault party’s insurance company, or their own uninsured motorist policy. In addition, the at-fault driver may be responsible for the cost of a rental car for the injured party. Lost Wages & Earning Capacity Lost wages and earning capacity include income the injured party would have earned or would be able to earn, but for the injury caused by the at-fault driver’s impaired driving. Pain and Suffering These damages compensate an injured driver for the physical pain and mental anguish they suffer because of another’s negligent driving. Pain and suffering damages are a type of compensatory damages unrelated to economic loss. While there is no official formula for a judge or jury to use in calculating pain and suffering awards, courts commonly use the “multiplier method” to estimate pain and suffering losses. The more severe the injuries and the greater the suffering, the higher the award. Punitive Damages California courts award punitive—or exemplary—damages in addition to compensatory damages. Unlike other damages, punitive damages are not based on the injured party’s loss. Instead, punitive damages are based on the egregiousness of the at-fault driver’s conduct. The purpose of punitive damages is to punish the drunk driver and deter other would-be DUI drivers. California courts award punitive damages only in cases where the at-fault driver acted intentionally or recklessly. I Got Hit by a Drunk Driver; What Is My Family Entitled To? The family members of a DUI victim have standing to sue for their own loss of consortium. Loss of consortium lawsuits is appropriate where the injury of an individual deprives their spouse of companionship or intimacy. This may be the case where a DUI accident renders the victim paralyzed from the waist down or in a coma. It’s a tragic fact that not everyone survives a DUI accident. California law provides recourse for the family members as well as the estate of one killed by another’s impaired driving. Survivor Action While the right to sue generally terminates upon a plaintiff’s death, California law has carved out an exception with the Code of Civil Procedure 377.30. The survival law permits the representative of one’s estate to sue for economic damages sustained between the time of the accident, and the time of death. For example, a survivor action would be appropriate where a drunk driver crashes into someone’s car, knocking them into a coma, and the person dies of their injury six days later. The deceased’s estate would be able to recover for property damage to the car, medical bills, and missed work hours up until the time of death. Note that while California law prohibits courts from awarding pain and suffering damages in a survivor action, it does permit punitive damages. Wrongful Death A wrongful death action compensates a spouse and certain other family members for the death of their loved one. Damages include burial and funeral expenses, lost future income, and compensation for the deceased family’s loss of consortium, love, guidance, and companionship. Unlike with a survivor action, punitive damages are typically not available in a California wrongful death claim. Hit By a Drunk Driver In California? Trust an Experienced San Francisco Personal Injury Attorney Were you recently injured, or have you lost a loved one due to the drunk driving of another? Contact an experienced California personal injury...Keep Reading