In the world of crashes and recovery, airplane crashes stand alone. They’re far less common than automobile crashes, and they’re far more complex. But that won’t stop victims and their families from wanting to learn how they can seek justice.
For example, take the families affected by the Boeing crashes that made headlines last year. They’ve suffered for months, and while recent emails have strengthened their case, these victims continue to seek answers. Their struggles also highlight some of the issues unique to aviation and airplane crashes.
The question of jurisdiction
Where do cars crash? On the ground, clearly within the borders of a single state. Accordingly, it’s easy for the courts, insurance companies and lawyers to agree which state’s laws will cover the crash.
It’s harder to say who’ll have jurisdiction over an airplane crash. According to the general guidelines for selecting a court to hear the case, it might be tried in any district where all the defendants reside or wherever the crash took place. However, these guidelines might be trumped by admiralty law if the plane flew over waters under the jurisdiction of an admiralty court.
The question of jurisdiction can become even more complicated if there’s more than one defendant, and they reside in different places. Especially if one or more of the defendants have their headquarters in a foreign nation.
The result is that airplane crashes require a greater familiarity with different courts and laws than car crashes. The families looking for justice need to work with someone who understands these laws.
The question of liability
Once you know where to take your case to court, the next step is to show how someone’s negligence led to your suffering. In car crashes, the matter of liability is usually rather simple. Most collisions involve two vehicles, each driven by its owner. The fault almost always lies entirely with one or both of the drivers.
Airplane crashes are rarely so simple. Pilots take the place of drivers, but there may be a pilot and a co-pilot. There may be an autopilot program. There may be an air traffic controller looking at the wrong screen. An airline may fail to recruit or train its pilots responsibly. Or, of course, an airplane manufacturer may put everyone at risk by launching a faulty plane.
Airplane crashes involve more parties, and any one or combination of them could share the fault. Attorneys need to know where to look.
Opening the black box
Just as with an airplane’s physical black box, it takes skill and experience to make sense of the legal issues surrounding an airplane crash. Victims want lawyers with these skills.