Airplane crashes can be destructive and overwhelming. Passengers and crew often suffer serious if not fatal injuries. Property is wiped out. The shock can be crushing for survivors or victims’ loved ones. Amid the wreckage you want to know how it happened and who is to blame. Getting answers can be challenging and prolonged. But you deserve them as much as safety regulators and the aviation industry.

There are inherent risks aboard a complex machine that can weigh more than 175,000 pounds and fly up to 600 mph though, statistically, air travel remains the safest mode of transportation. Commercial airline fatalities dropped 52% worldwide last year compared to 2018 despite an increase in flights and passengers. The numbers were not so positive for smaller planes and charters in the United States.

In November, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) reported 393 civil aviation deaths in 2018 compared to 347 the previous year.

Determining liability

The NTSB conducts all U.S. crash investigations to determine a cause. They can be incredibly complex since the plane is often destroyed and it can take months to gather and analyze evidence. Investigators consider numerous factors from pilots and maintenance crews to parts suppliers, manufacturers and weather.

The human factor trumps all other causes of fatal crashes since the dawn of the jetliner era in the 1950s:

  • Pilot error: 49%
  • Mechanical: 23%
  • Weather: 10%
  • Sabotage: 8%
  • Other: 10%

The law allows crash survivors and loved ones of victims killed to file wrongful death lawsuits and seek damages for injuries, pain and suffering. Compensation can help cover lost wages and support, funeral expenses and emotional trauma. It can be complicated to determine whether a party committed negligence that contributed or led to the crash.

The 1999 Montreal Convention afforded global travelers additional legal protections by obligating airlines to carry liability insurance and making them responsible for damages if investigators rule pilot error or poor maintenance caused the catastrophe. Airlines can try to prove that the crash was not their fault if there were engineering or manufacturing errors. Those firms or companies could be liable. Private pilots and aircraft owners also can sue for property damage if their planes were destroyed because of a defect.

Do you have a claim?

To receive just compensation after a plane crash, it is important to act quickly to scrutinize the investigations and determine whether you have a claim. Insurance companies will try to limit their liability. It might be helpful to have an experienced advocate fighting for your rights while you are grieving and trying to rebuild your life.