Aviation Accidents

Aviation Accidents2020-10-01T12:12:44-05:00

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.

Airplane Accident Lawsuits

When you consider the number of commercial airline flights that take off and land each day, airplane accidents are rare events. When they do happen, they are devastating for those involved. Even though many airplane accidents are survivable for some on board the aircraft, many that do survive must deal with the loss of a loved one, or face life with permanent personal injuries or long-term psychological effects.

The fact is, the majority of aviation accidents involve small aircraft, not large commercial airliners. Not only are small airplanes more likely to crash, but small plane crashes are much less survivable. Data from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) shows that in 2018, 97% of airplane fatalities occur as a result of general aviation, which includes all flights other than commercial airline flights. The Flight Safety Foundation reports that for the same year, the general aviation rate of fatalities was 1.029 per 100,000 flight hours, up from 0.935 the previous year. This is in contrast to a rate of 0.156 fatalities for commercial airlines for 2018.

If you or a loved one is injured or killed by a plane crash, it’s a good idea to consult an airplane accident lawyer. Many plane crashes are a result of the negligence or error. You may be facing staggering medical bills and the lifelong costs associated with medical care, lost earnings, and mental anguish. There may also be funeral costs, as well. The experienced team of airplane accident lawyers at Whitehurst, Harkness, Brees, Cheng, Alsaffar, Higginbotham, and Jacob, PLLC will review your personal injury or wrongful death case and develop a strategy to hold the negligent parties accountable.

Helicopter Accident Lawsuits

Helicopter flights come with a unique set of risk factors because of how these vehicles are typically used: in urban settings, carrying heavy loads, hovering low to the ground, landing on top of buildings, or in congested areas. All of these factors make helicopter travel riskier than airplane travel. Helicopter pilots require extensive training in order to be prepared for and successfully handle these types of situations. Inadequate training can make a routine flight deadly in seconds.

When a helicopter crashes, it can be more difficult to determine the cause. Unlike airplanes, helicopters are not required to have a “black box” recording device. Therefore, the role of the attorney is critically important in this type of lawsuit. The helicopter crash lawyer must have the skills and experience needed to conduct a thorough investigation and then to develop a solid legal strategy based on their findings.

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

Contact Our Aviation Accident Attorneys

If your family is in need of representation after a serious aviation accident, our attorneys can help. Contact our Austin law office to schedule an appointment with one of our attorneys for an evaluation of your case.

Frequently Asked Questions

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.

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.

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.

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.

Case Results

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

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