Although commercial airplane crashes are rare, they can result in severe injuries and multiple fatalities when they occur. However, since high-profile commercial crashes happen so infrequently, many people may assume any type of flying is always the safest mode of transportation. In fact, small airplanes are involved in several accidents each year. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) documented 27 small plane crashes in Virginia
in 2018, with multiple injuries and six fatalities. These accidents occurred during flight training, airshows, and lone pilot flights. Furthermore, not all airplane accidents happen in the air. Airline passengers can suffer injuries before their flights even leave the tarmac.
Common sources of airplane accident injuries include aircraft equipment, unsecured baggage falling from an overhead bin, collisions while moving about the cabin, and turbulence. In one highly-publicized incident, security officers severely injured a passenger because he refused to relinquish his seat to an airline employee. While most airline passengers recover from these types of non-flight incidents, a small number die from their injuries.
Negligent Parties Should Pay for the Damages They Cause
If you have been injured on a plane, regardless of whether it was commercial or private, the negligent or reckless parties who caused your damages should be held responsible. Emroch & Kilduff have exclusively handled personal injury cases since 1970. By focusing our practice on getting justice for injured clients, we have developed the experience, skills, and resources to successfully resolve even the most complicated airplane accident cases.
Our lawyers know the law, and they understand how being injured can affect an individual’s life, family, and future. Their commitment to their clients means they work hard to ensure the best possible outcome in every case.
Personal Injury Results
The legal team at Emroch & Kilduff believes in settling claims when possible, and litigating them when necessary. We have achieved fair settlements through Alternative Dispute Resolution and effective negotiation, as well as successful judgments from trial. While past results
are not a guarantee of future outcomes, our record shows what we have been able to do for our clients.
What Conditions Cause Airplane Accidents?
Injuries can occur on a plane for many reasons, including but not limited to falling objects, cramped cabins that impede movement, and turbulence. In fact, the Federal Aviation Administration
cited “in-flight turbulence” as the leading cause of non-fatal passenger and flight attendant injuries. Turbulence injuries often occur when an airline fails to give adequate and timely warnings.
Airplane crashes may be caused by inadequate pilot training, poor navigation during weather conditions, maintenance failures, or defective equipment. The NTSB annual Most Wanted List
reviews accident trends across all modes of transportation. The 2019-2020 list highlights several unresolved air safety issues and provides recommended solutions:
- Distractions. Eliminate Personal Electronic Device (PED) use during pre-flight preparation and inspections.
- Substance abuse. Require stronger toxicology screening for commercial transportation.
- Improved safety. Require more training for air tour, air medical service, air taxi, charter, and on-demand pilots.
- Reduce fatigue-related accidents. Require recurrent training.
What Injuries Do Airplane Incidents Cause?
Plane crashes may result in extensive damage and multiple fatalities. Plane crash survivors may suffer long-term or permanent catastrophic injuries, and ongoing emotional trauma. When falling baggage hits a passenger on the head, it can cause traumatic brain injuries, and neck and spine problems. Other adverse airplane events can cause serious injuries, including but not limited to:
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Spinal cord trauma
- Multiple fractures
- Internal injuries
- Lacerations with scarring
Who Is Responsible for Airplane Injuries?
In most cases, the airplane manufacturer, airline, flight school, or pilot will be liable for a passenger’s damages. Under state and federal guidelines, airlines are responsible if there is a failure in critical safety issues. Additionally, when accidents are caused by the negligence or recklessness of employees or contractors, including pilots, flight attendants, or maintenance crew, airlines are also responsible since such agents are completely under the airline’s control.
Under Virginia law
, airplane owners, pilots, and airfields may be liable for damages, Virginia-based aircraft must comply with licensing laws, and financial responsibility requirements
address compensation for injuries and damages.
mandates an airline’s duty to maintain airworthiness, train employees, maintain equipment, maintain crew medical standards, and other requirements. It also provides standards for airports, flight schools, and maintenance technicians.
What Damages Can I Recover for an Airplane Accident Injury
Personal injury compensation may include economic and noneconomic damages. When the evidence shows a defendant acted with malice, a jury may also award punitive damages. However, under Virginia law,
punitive damages are limited to $350,000.
Economic damages may include, but are not limited to:
- Lost income
- Loss of future earning capacity
- Hospitalization, radiology, surgery, medication, and doctor care
- Prosthetics and mobility devices
- Transportation for medical care
- Replacement household services
- Funeral expenses
Noneconomic damages are for emotional, psychological, and other subjective damages. These may include:
- Emotional distress
- Pain and suffering
- Diminished spousal and family relationships
- Inability to care for family
- Loss of bodily functions
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Permanent disabilities
Airlines and their employees are responsible for damages a passenger suffers during a flight caused by the airline’s negligence or recklessness. If the injuries occurred during turbulence or adverse weather conditions, the airline is responsible for providing adequate warnings if they noticed or should have noticed there was risk of injury.
Although passengers may overstuff baggage compartments and create other dangerous conditions by their actions, airline employees have ultimate control of the safety of the cabin. They must make sure the contents of storage compartments are secure before closing or allowing passengers to open them.
Airlines may try to avoid liability for their negligent acts or omissions by using one or more of the most common defenses:
- Contributory negligence. If a passenger falls, overstuffs a luggage compartment, or fails to respond to a turbulence warning, the airline may try to argue they contributed to their own injuries. If the incident occurred in Virginia, the pure contributory negligence standard bars a victim’s recovery even if there were only 1 percent negligent.
- Manufacturer defect. If an airline proves a manufacturing defect caused an accident, they may force the manufacturer to assume 100 percent liability.
- Damages. An airline may attempt to reduce their losses by claiming that injuries did not occur during the incident, or that they are less severe than claimed.
- Subcontractors. Airlines are responsible for all facets of their airlines. However, when subcontractors perform some duties they may share liability with the airline, or assume responsibility under a hold harmless or duty-to-defend agreement.
Lawyers at Emroch & Kilduff have encountered and overcome all of these and other defenses in past cases. We apply the law to the facts to get the best possible results for our clients.
Virginia Airplane Accident Attorneys
If you have been injured in an airplane accident in Virginia, speak to an experienced attorney as soon as possible. The personal injury lawyers at Emroch & Kilduff serve clients in Richmond
, Petersburg, Tappahannock, Fredericksburg, and the surrounding communities. Contact Emroch & Kilduff today at (804) 358-1568 or online
to schedule a free consultation and learn if we may be able to help you.