The Basics of a Airplane Accident Personal Injury Claim

British Columbia Airplane Accident Lawyer

A commercial and private airplane accident is often a life-changing event for victims and their family members, causing serious and debilitating injuries for some, and fatal wounds for others. All airplane accidents, however small or large, require thorough investigation by an experienced British Columbia airplane accident lawyer, even if you have already been offered compensation from the carrier or private company. Here at Preszler Law Firm, we have been serving British Columbia airplane accident victims since 1959. We offer professional legal services for victims and their loved ones, taking responsibility to recover maximum compensation for our clients in personal injury and wrongful death cases. Because every airplane accident is a serious matter, you need a legal team that can adapt to every situation, talk you through each step of the process, and listen to your needs and desires throughout the many months that a claim or lawsuit takes to settle or litigate.

The Basics of a Airplane Accident Personal Injury Claim

Like any type of personal injury accident or collision, the first step to gaining compensation is proving liability. This means that the appropriate party must be held responsible—often there are multiple parties that are at fault. For example, a private airplane pilot who misjudged the severity of an approaching storm, as well as a third party aircraft mechanic who failed to fix a problem with a flap, could both be held liable in the event of a crash that injured or killed passengers aboard.

While some airplane accidents are clearly the fault of a single party, that does not mean that the insurance carrier of that party will agree to settle without a fight. For example, a passenger’s luggage could fall out and hit a seated passenger aboard a commercial airline during takeoff, causing a traumatic brain injury and lacerations. However, the carrier could make a variety of claims in its defence, such as arguing that another passenger opened the overhead compartment and failed to close it properly after the flight attendants made their final round, or that the victim themselves were at fault by not being properly fastened in with a seatbelt.

Whatever the circumstances, no personal injury claim is a simple matter of filing a claim and waiting patiently for the negligent party’s insurance company to send a check to cover the full extent of your damages. Every personal injury claim requires a careful reading of all relevant insurance policies, an investigation into the cause of the incident, diligent documentation of your damages, and months of strong negotiations with the other party. In some cases, filing a lawsuit and taking the case to court to be tried in front of a jury is the only way to recover the compensation that the plaintiff deserves. Such a back and forth with negotiations, followed by a lawsuit for the final decision to be made, would take well over a year. During this time, an experienced lawyer’s job is not only to seek maximum compensation for his or her client, but also to answer phone calls and emails of the client, and to keep communications open throughout the process.

Compensation Depends on the Damages Caused to You

 Damages from airplane accidents are typically significant due to the serious injuries that victims often suffer. In order to file a personal injury claim under the Montreal Convention (explained below), you must have sustained an actual physical injury. Simply suffering emotional distress or inconvenience is not substantial enough for a lawsuit or injury claim, and such matters should be taken up with the carrier directly, without a lawyer. However, most passengers involved in airplane accidents, such as crashes or severe turbulence, do suffer extensive injuries. The damages for which they can expect to receive compensation include the following:

  • Past and future medical expenses;
  • Lost wages and lost earning capacity;
  • Pain and suffering;
  • Emotional distress;
  • Travel expenses to and from doctor appointments;
  • Property damage; and
  • Expenses related to childcare and housekeeping, necessary because of your injuries.

In the event of a death, the spouse, child, or parent of the victim can file a wrongful death lawsuit for the following damages:

  • Medical expenses of the victim;
  • Lost earning capacity of the victim;
  • Pain and suffering of the victim;
  • Emotional distress;
  • Loss of consortium;
  • Property damage;
  • Funeral and burial expenses; and
  • Loss of joy of life.

What are Your Injuries?

Unfortunately, victims often suffer severe injuries in a airplane accident and other types of crashes. These include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Traumatic brain injury;
  • Whiplash;
  • Spinal cord injuries;
  • Spinal column injuries;
  • Fractured limbs;
  • Broken ribs or flail lung;
  • Torn ligaments;
  • Broken hip;
  • Lacerations;
  • Facial trauma;
  • Permanent disfigurement or scarring;
  • Burn injuries;
  • Internal organ perforation and internal bleeding; and

A patient’s medical records are used to determine the amount of pain and suffering damages to which they are entitled. The more serious their injuries or the more debilitated or limited they will be in the future, the larger the pain and suffering damages will be.

Which is More Dangerous, Flying Commercially or by Private Plane?

About one in three million commercial flights ends with a fatal accident, according to To70 and CNBC. This represents an increase in recent years, though flying commercially is still much safer than flying in a chartered plane or the single propeller plane of a friend who is an amateur pilot. While over 500 people died in commercial flights in 2018 worldwide, there are 32 fatal single-engine aircraft crashes annually in Canada, with many other chartered flights ending in tragedy. The accident rate for private planes in Canada is 28.4 per 100,000 flying hours, according to CBC News. As such, flying in a private plane, whether it is a single-engine plane or large chartered jet, is more dangerous than flying in a commercial plane. Pilots of private planes generally have much less flying experience, and also do not have access to the high tech safety equipment and navigation systems to which commercial pilots are privy. Additionally, commercial pilots, mechanics, and ground support are all held to much higher safety standards and regulations than the typical private plane, pilot, and supporting crew.

 Common Causes of Private Plane Crashes

There is a big difference between a large chartered jet and a smaller propeller plane flown by an amateur pilot. However, most private planes are small, and are owned by amateur pilots. As such, the most common causes of fatal and injury-causing accidents in which the plane is private include the following, according to the Washington Post:

  • Pilot Inexperience: Private plane pilots have much lower standards for flight hours and experience than commercial pilots. As such, they are more likely to get into a dangerous situation, make a poor judgement, not know what to do in the event of an emergency, or make another fatal error. In many of the following types of plane accidents, pilot inexperience is a leading or contributing factor,
  • Controlled Flight Into Terrain: A controlled flight into terrain occurs when a plane flies into the ground, a hillside, or a mountain. During heavy fog or darkness, a pilot may become disoriented or simply not see where he or she is flying. This type of accident is usually caused by a combination of pilot error and lack of an advanced navigation system. Private planes spend more time at lower altitudes, as well, making them more prone to flying into the ground. Heavy cloud cover and fog are extremely dangerous for small private planes with inexperienced pilots;
  • Running Out of Fuel: As ridiculous as it seems, many private plane accidents are caused simply because planes run out of fuel. This is caused by a pilot’s poor calculations, poor judgement, overloading the plane, or flying into an extended headwind;
  • Bad Landings: Potentially caused by bad weather, ragged runways, pilot experience, or a combination of factors, bad landings are a common cause of non-fatal injuries for occupants of private planes. As with commercial flights, landing is the most dangerous phase of a private plane flight;
  • Bird Strikes: A bird strike occurs when a plane flies into a bird or flock of birds. The smaller the plane, the more likely that serious damage will occur;
  • Other Causes: Dangerous weather, defective parts, poor maintenance of the plane, pilot inattention, lack of communication systems, and overloading the plane with cargo or passengers.

Whether you were injured or your loved one was killed in a private plane flight that was chartered or flown by an amateur pilot friend, the negligent party needs to be held responsible for the victim’s damages. If you have concerns about pursuing compensation from a friend or acquaintance, rest assured that the insurance company will be paying out, not the pilot him or herself. Regardless, you need and deserve this compensation to cover the extensive costs of your damages—damages that you in no way at fault for causing.

Commercial Plane Crashes

Similar to private plane crashes, commercial aviation accidents are often caused by pilot error. Other common causes include:

  • Negligent maintenance;
  • Air traffic control errors;
  • Defective products;
  • Damaged equipment;
  • Bad weather, such as wind, hail, lightning, and snow;
  • Poor visibility;
  • Lack of communication with ground control and other aircraft;
  • Bird strikes; and

Commercial Plane Accidents do Not Always Involve a Crash

The most serious accidents typically involve a plane crash, though this is not always the case. Accidents also happen on the runway and in-flight. For example, grounded planes are sometimes struck by other planes, baggage trucks, or other vehicles. During takeoff, baggage can come free from overhead compartments, landing on unsuspecting passengers. Turbulence can cause whiplash and falling-debris injuries in-flight even when passengers are in their seats wearing seatbelts. A passenger could trip and fall over an uneven step or unmarked bump getting onto the plane.

Pursuing Damages Caused During an International Flight Under the Montreal Convention of 1999

Domestic commercial flight crashes are rare, though they do occur of course. More common are international flight crashes, which can make it more challenging for victims to collect damages, especially if the flight crashed overseas or was operated by a foreign carrier. However, under the Montreal Convention of 1999, the process is more streamlined than you might think. Over 130 countries have ratified the Convention, and, as such, any flight from one of these countries to the next is covered under the Convention, which holds carriers strictly liable for the first 100,000 Special Drawing Rights (SDR) or approximately $185,500 in damages. Only after that compensation has been paid out can a carrier may attempt to place blame with a third party. The Montreal Convention holds a carrier responsible when an injury or death occurs on the plane, boarding the plane, or exiting the plane. Victims must file a lawsuit within two years of the accident, however.

How to File a Claim Under the Montreal Convention as a Canadian Resident

Canadians can file lawsuits here in Canada against foreign airline carriers as long as they prove the following:

  • The carrier is ordinarily a resident of the Canadian province;
  • The carrier has an establishment by which the contract has been made (the ticket was sold in British Columbia, for example);
  • The carrier has a principal place of business in the province; or
  • British Columbia was the final destination of the flight.

Act Now by Calling an Experienced British Columbia Plan Accident Lawyer

As a victim in a airplane accident, you have two years to file a lawsuit to collect compensation for your injuries. We strongly urge you to act quickly in order to give yourself the highest chances of success, and to avoid further financial harm caused by lost wages and medical expenses. Whether you were injured in a trip and fall accident boarding the plane, were injured by a falling suitcase, lost a loved one in an overseas commercial aviation crash, or suffered a concussion during a private single engine sightseeing tour, you deserve to be compensated. Call the British Columbia plane accident lawyers of Preszler Law Firm today at 1-800-JUSTICE for a free consultation.

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