Litigating aviation disasters presents unique challenges

On Behalf of | Jan 4, 2017 | Wrongful Death |

The recent tragedy is still unfolding that involved a Cessna 525 Citation carrying the pilot and five passengers. All were family members and friends and the plane presumably crashed into Lake Erie shortly after taking off from Burke Lakefront Airport in Cleveland during a spate of inclement winter weather. Authorities have now turned the focus from a rescue to a recovery, however, as debris continues to wash onto shore on the waves.

Divers and boat crews are focusing their efforts in portions of the lake that are as deep as 45 feet. A member of the dive team from nearby Lorain commented that clear, calm days bring visibility of between four and six feet.

Evidence recovery remains crucial

Obviously, the most important recovery that must be made in any type of aviation disaster is the human remains. From a purely humanitarian standpoint, this must be done to aid families in their grief. Practically, it allows the deceased to be formally laid to rest.

However, from an evidentiary standpoint, the recovery of human remains is important because it establishes that the individuals definitively lost their lives in the air disaster, which is the first step toward moving forward with a civil case for any surviving family members.

The sheer force of the impact of most aviation accidents can make the debris field a wide swath covered with often tiny, charred remnants of the aircraft. This makes determining the reasons for the disaster difficult to ascertain, which is why locating the black boxes (which are actually orange) from any downed aircraft paramount to any investigation. These devices are known technically as flight data recorders. Among other vital information, they record all conversations that take place in the cockpits of aircrafts.

Building a liability case in an aircraft disaster is a painstaking process

If you have ever been in a car or truck accident, unless it was a major accident where you suffered life-threatening injuries or required many surgeries and extensive rehabilitative efforts, you probably had your case settled in or out of court in a year or less after the petition for damages was filed.

But the same cannot be said for an aviation accident, where the litigation process can be viewed more as a marathon than a sprint. The National Transportation Safety Board Federal conducts its investigation, often in conjunction with the Federal Aviation Administration and potentially other federal agencies, dependent upon the circumstances surrounding the accident. Once all the facts are kno wn, the civil cases that derive from the air disaster can be filed and litigated.

If you are a survivor of an aircraft accident, or if you lost a loved one in a plane crash, moving on with your life can be a difficult step. Holding the at-fault parties responsible and seeking financial compensation for your losses and damages can ease your transition to what will become your new normal.


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