In most cases, an aviation accident is a catastrophic and life-altering event for all of those involved. In the aftermath of a major helicopter or plane accident, many victims find themselves in need of trustworthy legal representation and assistance in investigating the accident. At Whitehurst, Harkness, Brees, Cheng, Alsaffar, Higginbotham, and Jacob, PLLC, we have considerable experience in aviation accident cases. Our two instrument-rated pilot attorneys, Bill Whitehurst, and Tom Harkness have tried cases from Los Angeles to Atlanta involving aviation accidents occurring as far away as Borneo, Indonesia. If you or anyone in your family has been involved in an aviation accident, our attorneys can help.
Our team has represented the families of astronauts, businesspeople, military personnel, oil field workers, pilots, and airline passengers. We have access to some of the most respected aeronautics specialists in the country, and the input of these expert witnesses enables us to construct sound cases on behalf of our clients. The aviation accident attorneys at our firm can analyze the root causes of an accident, which can range from pilot error to airplane and engine design, and determine who is responsible for any personal injury or wrongful death that has occurred.
Common Causes of Aviation Accidents
In one of our firm’s most notable aviation accident cases, our attorneys determined that a manufacturing defect in part of the propeller mechanism was responsible for the failure of an Embraer 120 turboprop aircraft, which resulted in the death of all passengers on board. A defective product like that is only one of the many factors that can lead to an aviation accident, which is why the attorneys at our firm examine each case for instances of:
- Pilot negligence or error
- Violations of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations
- Flaws in design or construction
- Negligent maintenance by FBO’s (Fixed Base Operators)
- General negligence by federal air traffic controllers
You can look at our National Reach page to see our success in states across the United States. You can also see our full results on our case results page. Here are some of the cases that we have won on behalf of clients:
Confidential Settlement Georgia When an Embraer 120 turboprop aircraft crashed in Georgia, all of those on board lost their lives, including a NASA astronaut whose family retained our firm. After extensive investigation in federal court in multi-district litigation, we found that the cause of the crash was a manufacturing defect…
Confidential Settlement The firm represented families from Jakarta, Indonesia, Borneo, Hong Kong, and Pecos, Texas after their husbands and fathers were killed in a Bell 212 helicopter crash on the way to an ARCO rig off of Tarakan, Indonesia. In separate confidential settlement agreements, five families residing 12,000 miles apart…
Frequently Asked Questions
What legal rights do I have after an aviation accident?
When an airplane accident occurs and people are injured or killed, those involved have the right to sue for damages they suffered as a result. Potential plaintiffs include the person injured, his or her spouse, legal guardian, representative of the estate (when the victim is deceased), or next of kin, and someone closely related to the injured party who witnessed the accident as a bystander.
Damages that can be sought in the lawsuit include economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages include medical costs, lost wages, cost for future medical care, future lost wages, funeral costs, and other out-of-pocket expenses incurred as a result of injuries or death caused by the crash. Examples of non-economic damages include pain, mental anguish, physical or mental impairment, and disfigurement.
Depending on the circumstances of the accident, a suit may be brought against the airline, the pilot, the aircraft manufacturer, certain aircraft parts manufacturers, the aircraft maintenance company, the airport, the government, and possibly others.
Where should my airplane crash lawsuit be filed?
Victims of aviation accidents have many choices when it comes to where they can file a lawsuit. The choices of venue available will vary depending on the cause of the accident. Some possibilities may include the location where the accident occurred, where the defendant is headquartered, or the location where the plane was based and maintained. The plaintiffs’ lawyers can research the possible locations and determine which they feel will be the most advantageous for the plaintiff.
What is the difference in suing a major airline vs a private jet or helicopter charter?
This is a very general question and much of the answer depends on whether the crash is caused by pilot error, failure to properly maintain the aircraft, mechanical failure related to parts or design, or something else.
Of all aviation businesses, the commercial airliners have to comply with the strictest set of regulations: the FAA’s Part 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations. Although you are much less likely to be injured on a commercial airline flight, because there are more regulations big carriers must follow, one could argue there are more opportunities for error. On the other hand, commercial airlines are very well insured against plane crashes and have large legal teams to defend against aviation accident cases.
Smaller companies that fly chartered airplanes and helicopters still must comply with federal regulations but their set of rules, Part 135, are not as lengthy and stringent. Charter aviation companies will not have the hefty liability insurance policies or the legal firepower of a large commercial airliner so this could affect their legal strategy, and their ability to pay a settlement or judgement.
Private planes have the fewest federal regulations to follow. The circumstances under which one travels on a private jet can vary so widely that it is difficult to say what an aviation accident case might look like against the owner of a private jet. That would depend on who owns the plane, who was piloting the plane, the circumstances of the crash, what damages are being sought, etc.
Can a lawsuit still be filed if the victim is an owner of the jet/helicopter or a fractional owner?
Yes, any passenger in an aircraft (or surviving family of someone who is killed) may file a lawsuit even if the victim is an owner or fractional owner of the aircraft. Even the pilot (or surviving family, if deceased) who is an owner-operator can bring a lawsuit if it can be proven that pilot error was not the cause of the crash. An example would be if the crash was caused by an aircraft design defect or negligence on the part of air-traffic control.