New York City, NY top attorney, handles bus accidents, MTA, aviation accident, airline injuries & death, medical malpractice, doctor errors, wrongful death, and construction cases. Attorney Jonathan C. Reiter consistently delivers results.
Statistics support the fact that commercial passenger flights are still one of the safest modes of travel, but the problem is that when aviation accidents do occur, they tend to have devastating consequences.
Those consequences can include death, severe injuries, and long-term psychological trauma.
When these aviation accidents occur, there is always an investigation to determine what caused the event. In some instances, investigators can’t decide which party is to blame for the accident because they lack the evidence necessary to determine fault.
Sadly, however, pilot error plays a role in a vast majority of aviation accidents. Let’s analyze why pilot errors occur and who is liable if the evidence indicates that a pilot was at fault in an aviation disaster.
Common Causes of Plane Crashes
It’s first important to place pilot errors in context by examining less common causes of plane crashes, which include:
- Equipment failure – The recent Southwest Airlines aviation accident is an example of equipment failure because one of the plane’s engines malfunctioned, causing an explosion. Other types of equipment failure include aircraft wings that don’t work properly, which can cause a commercial plane to roll in mid-air and lose altitude. Equipment failure often occurs without warning, which gives pilots no time to try to protect the aircraft.
- Air Traffic Control problems – Air traffic controllers are responsible for guiding planes that are taking off, in mid-flight, and landing. If an air traffic controller gives pilots the wrong flight path information or doesn’t coordinate two planes that are in close proximity to each other, an accident is likely. For example, in 2016, an air traffic controller in San Diego gave incorrect instructions to the pilots of an EVA Air Boeing 777 that had just taken off from Los Angeles International Airport, which nearly caused the aircraft to collide with an Air Canada plane that had also recently taken off. (1)
- Weather – Weather is not a direct cause of aviation accidents, but the harsh weather makes it significantly more difficult for commercial airline pilots to guide their planes safely. High winds, rain, snow, and thunderstorms can disrupt visibility and cause physical damage to commercial aircraft which raises the level of difficulty for pilots.
Although these are three common causes of aviation accidents, a pilot error often occurs more frequently than any of these other triggers.
Common Types of Pilot Error
Some of the most common types of pilot error that can result in aviation accidents are:
- Failing to do a complete preflight check – Preflight checks are diagnostic evaluations of a plane’s systems that can help detect any potential problems before the plane is airborne. Pilots that fail to do this check could expose passengers to unnecessary danger.
- Failing to file a visual flight plan – The Federal Aviation Administration requires all commercial pilots to file an IFR flight plan so that rescue workers can find an aircraft in the event of a crash. The IFR flight plan is an essential tracking tool for search and rescue operations. When commercial aircraft go off the radar and lose contact with air traffic control, the IFR can help determine the approximate location of the flight or crash site.
- Miscommunication with air traffic control – Pilots may misinterpret communication from air traffic control, which causes them to take the wrong action in mid-air and leads to a crash.
- Failing to maintain situational awareness and keep the airplane under proper control-This covers a wide array of potential errors. It is critical that pilots maintain proper attention during all aspects of a flight, but particularly during take-off and landing when many pilot-related accidents occur.
- Navigation errors in bad weather – Harsh weather can cause pilots to make mistakes in how they pilot an aircraft.
Pilot Liability in Aviation Accidents
In most instances, commercial pilot liability in plane crashes will fall on the airline because pilots are employees of an airline.
Most states allow victims of commercial aviation accidents to seek compensation from the company that employs a pilot, regardless of whether the airline was at fault in the crash.
This means that if the pilot’s error was due to something that the airline couldn’t control, the airline would still be legally liable for that pilot’s actions.
Finding a Manhattan Aviation Accidents Attorney
Victims of commercial airline crashes have the right to seek the counsel of an experienced wrongful death lawyer who handles aviation cases. These claims are often complex and time-consuming, so it’s essential for victims to protect their legal rights by hiring a skilled aviation accident lawyer.
New York Aviation Accident Attorney Jonathan C. Reiter:
Prior results cannot and do not guarantee or predict a similar outcome with respect to any future case. Recoveries always depend upon the facts and circumstances of each case, the injuries suffered, damages incurred, and the responsibility of those involved.