Although airplane crashes are not as common as automobile accidents, they can have severe or even fatal consequences. Common injuries from airplane accidents include broken bones, head trauma, strokes, heart attacks, and burns. In the worst situations, where lives are lost, the remaining family members often suffer their own injuries. Those who survive a loved one can experience pain and suffering, loss of income, and loss of consortium. Consortium is the legal right of association and companionship with one’s husband or wife and is possible grounds for legal action. If you or a family member is injured in an airplane accident, whether in the air or on the ground, it is possible that you are entitled to damages.
Determining who is responsible for an airplane accident is important for establishing liability. Parties that are shown to be liable are responsible for the damages that resulted from the accident. There are some instances where there is no one that was negligent and an outside force like a terrible storm was the sole cause of an accident. It is rarely the case that there was no negligent actor in an airplane crash though. Airlines themselves are frequently found to be liable for accidents when inadequate maintenance or pilot error is found to be the cause of the accident. It is also possible for the airplane manufacturer to be liable for the accident. In situations where the company that produced the airplane used a defective product during construction (that it produced itself) or is found to have produced a defective airplane then the manufacturer will likely be held liable. It is also possible for the manufacturer of a component of the airplane to be held liable. If a company besides the airplane manufacturer produced a defective component that caused or contributed to the accident then the company would likely have liability for the airplane crash. In some cases, negligence on the part of an air traffic controller is a contributing factor in an accident, and they may also be liable for the damage caused by their actions.
The damages that result from airplane accidents are often extensive. Those who are injured are usually entitled to compensatory damages. Compensatory damages are designed to compensate the plaintiff for economic and non-economic injuries that resulted from the airplane accident. Economic injuries include lost wages (including lost earning potential due to the injury), medical expenses, and life care expenses. Non-economic damages are assessed based on the actual injury that occurred from airplane accident. Non-economic damages include any physical and psychological harm such as severe pain, emotional distress, loss of limbs, mental anguish, and loss of enjoyment resulting from the injury. They can also include compensation for wrongful death and loss of consortium in the event that a spouse is killed in an airplane crash. Punitive damages are damages that are assessed as punishment against the negligent actor. Punitive damages are sometimes awarded when there has been a malicious disregard for the well being of the passengers by the airline. Punitive damages are intended to deter the airline or other airlines from engaging in the same activity in the future.