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Can You Sue an Airline for an Aviation Accident?

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Chuck Geerhart
sue airline for aviation accident

In 2021, 21 U.S. airlines were involved in aviation accidents. Luckily, none of these accidents resulted in fatalities.

United States airlines are exceptionally safe to travel on.

But when an airplane crash does occur on domestic or foreign soil, victims have a right to sue the responsible airline.

However, bringing a successful lawsuit depends on correctly determining which laws will apply to a claim.

To learn more about whether you can sue an airline for an aviation accident, keep reading.

Can I Bring an Aviation Accident Lawsuit for a U.S. Airplane Accident?

After a major airplane crash involving a U.S. airline or foreign carrier in the United States, the U.S. federal government must provide numerous kinds of assistance to victims and victims’ families under the Aviation Disaster Family Assistance Act of 1996.

This legislation also requires the National Transportation Safety Board to designate a nonprofit entity to coordinate services, including mental health services and victim identification, for survivors of the crash and victims’ families.

Domestically, state laws and the Federal Aviation Act (the Act) primarily govern commercial airlines.

The Act mandates that domestic airlines exercise extraordinary care for their passengers.

It’s also important to note that an airplane doesn’t always have to crash for someone to get hurt. Improper food handling, turbulence, poor maintenance, and faulty equipment can also cause harm.

When a U.S. airline injury occurs on United States soil, victims can bring a lawsuit in U.S. courts.

In this case, courts will look to the Federal Aviation Act when determining whether an airline’s or an airline employee’s negligence caused a victim’s injury.

If a court finds that a carrier failed to exercise the proper amount of care and that failure resulted in the victim’s injury, the victim can be awarded damages. 

Common legal claims brought after a domestic airplane accident or injury include pilot, mechanic, and airport negligence claims, product liability claims when parts fail, and Federal Tort Claims Act claims when FAA or air traffic controller issues are to blame.

It is also common for there to be multiple causes of a crash or injury. Several legal theories may apply when this happens, and multiple defendants may be responsible.

Can I Sue an Airline for an Aviation Accident that Happens Internationally?

Suing an airline for a plane crash that occurs internationally can be a complex, drawn-out matter.

Under the Montreal Convention (the Convention), U.S. citizens injured in an international aviation accident may file lawsuits in their state of residence to seek compensation for their or a loved one’s injuries and damages if the accident occurred in one of the 137 signatory countries to the Convention.

Under the Convention, signatories are also strictly liable for damages of up to 100,000 special drawing rights, which is an asset created and regulated by the International Monetary Fund that has a U.S. dollar exchange value.

When an accident occurs in a country that is not a signatory of the Convention, lack of jurisdiction may bar victims from suing in United States courts.

In that case, a victim’s legal claim may be subject to the laws of any number of jurisdictions, from the carrier’s country of incorporation to the country where the crash occurred.

Because international law matters are highly complex, consulting with an experienced aviation accident attorney after an international plane crash is critical.

A skilled attorney will know which laws to apply and help you determine carrier liability.  

Contact the Law Offices of Chuck Geerhart 

For over 30 years, the Law Office of Chuck Geerhart has provided clients with compassionate representation and passionate advocacy.

Our team knows how to handle the unique legal challenges presented by aviation accident lawsuits.

We have decades of experience applying appropriate domestic and international law, and we have helped our clients recover millions of dollars in compensation.

Led by American Board of Trial Advocates member, Chuck Geerhart, our team will review your plan crash injury claim, determine its value, and go toe-to-toe with all responsible parties.

When you hire the Law Office of Chuck Geerhart, you can rest assured that your plane crash claim will be represented by one of California’s most exceptional legal teams.

Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.

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