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Can I File a Lawsuit if I’m Involved in an Airplane Accident or Injured During a Flight?

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Flying is one of the safest modes of transportation, but accidents happen. In 2016, the NTSB reports there were a total of 1,335 accidents and 408 fatalities. That’s not even close to the number of vehicle crashes each year, but injuries do happen. If you’re injured during a flight, what are your rights? Can you sue?

Many Things Can Happen on a Flight

A plane doesn’t have to crash in order for injuries to occur. Turbulence, infectious diseases, improper handling of food, and faulty equipment can all lead to injuries. For example, one of North Carolina’s public health departments contacted three dozen passengers who may have been exposed to Hepatitis A during an American Airlines flight. Some passengers had to undergo vaccinations as a preventative measure.

Turbulence is one of the more common ways people are injured during flights. As the plane is exposed to the shaking and bumps, passengers may get hit with objects falling from overhead compartments. A food cart may start rolling and hit passengers. People who aren’t buckled in may get thrown from their seats. If the staff hasn’t taken proper precautions to secure items or warn passengers, the airline could be liable for injuries.

What about situations where an emotional support animal that’s allowed on the flight bites someone? Who is to blame then? Is it the animal’s owner or the airline? When a Delta passenger was bitten by an emotional support dog in 2017, he sued both the animal’s owner and the airline. Delta was named in the lawsuit because the airline’s policy stated larger support dogs had to be on the floor, but the staff allowed the dog to sit on the animal owner’s lap, where the dog was able to reach and bite the passenger in the face.

Don’t forget emotional injuries. When pilots landed at the wrong airport and stopped abruptly, the plane filled with the smell of burnt rubber. One passenger knew it was the wrong airport and that the shorter runway ended near a cliff. That knowledge led to a fear of flying that cost him a higher paying job. He sued the airline for mental anguish.

What Factors Determine Whether It’s Worth Suing?

If you or a loved one is injured during a flight, there are a few factors to consider. Did the injury occur because of pilot error? If a pilot is sick, impaired, or excessively tired, that negligence on the pilot’s part could be to blame. Had the pilot been fine, the accident might not have happened.

Could the flight crew be to blame? If they failed to do the pre-flight checks to make sure baggage compartments are shut and passengers are buckled in, they are negligent. In this case, the airline would be the target of a lawsuit. One such case involves an airline flight attendant who knocked over a woman’s cup of hot tea while passing milk to another passenger. The cabin crew allegedly failed to offer any help to the woman who had burns on her legs and hip.

Was there a problem with the plane? Did the pre-flight check get rushed or skipped? If someone missed that there wasn’t enough fuel or that something wasn’t working, the lack or negligent maintenance is to blame. If a piece of equipment on the plane was defective, the manufacturer could be blamed for any injuries resulting from the defective equipment.

Did the air traffic control crew make a mistake? If the person in the tower sent a plane to land on the runway where another plane was sitting, it’s another case of negligence. The FAA is responsible for air traffic control workers. As they are a government agency, the lawsuit would be against the government.

It can be hard to know exactly who is at fault. If the crew missed a faulty piece of equipment during routine maintenance or inspections, is the crew to blame or is it the manufacturer? Are both to blame? The specifics of your complaint matter. You could have a valid case against the airline, the FAA, or another passenger.

This is why it’s important to talk to personal injury attorneys who specialize in airline accidents. Trial Lawyers for Justice offer free consultations. You don’t pay a penny unless the attorneys win your case. They’ll walk you through the steps to take in. Reach the personal injury attorneys at TL4J 24 hours per day through live chat or by calling 1-866-TL4J-LAW.

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Trial by Human

Nick Rowley founded Trial by Human, a nationwide legal education course to help trial lawyers improve their skills in the courtroom by "being human".