This decision depends on what exactly caused the airplane accident. Considering that half of all airplane accidents are caused by pilot error and that many small airplanes are operated by their owners, there's a good chance a lawsuit will need to be filed against the owner of the plane.
Under current law, owners may be held liable for accidents if they fail to
- Possess a current Airworthiness Certificate and Certificate of Aircraft Registration and have the documentation in the plane. There are two types of airworthiness certificates -- standard and special. If a plane is flown for pleasure or personal use, a Special Airworthiness Certificate is required.
- Maintain the plane in an airworthy condition, which means they must comply with applicable Airworthiness Directives.
- Ensure that maintenance on the plane is properly recorded.
You might be asking yourself, "What if the owner of the airplane wasn't actually operating the plane when it crashedd?" Well, the owner may still be held liable if
- The owner employed the pilot or maintenance worker who was found to be at fault for the crash.
- The owner had some knowledge of a dangerous condition or defect in the plane at the time he or she transferred control to the pilot or maintenance worker.
- The owner entrusted the plane to someone who was not competent to fly it.
- The state laws regarding ownership liability include a specific statute imposing vicarious liability on owners. Basically, this is when an owner granted implied or expressed permission to someone else to operate the plane.
Some airplane owners have tried to avoid liability by having you sign a waiver. This strategy doesn't always work and here's why:
A Waiver Does Not Equate to Zero Liability
Some pilots and plane owners require passengers to sign a waiver before takeoff, thinking that will enable them to avoid any liability if an accident occurs. Signed waivers do not free at-fault pilots and owners from liability for negligence, however, even if an insurance adjuster tells you they do. A waiver may also not cover failure on the part of a pilot to follow FAA regulations, a mechanic who didn't do his job properly or a plane that itself was faulty.
Before it can be determined whether your claim can be successfully pursued, you need to take the first step and consult qualified legal counsel.
Learn more about what you need to do after a small airplane accident.
To learn more about plane, bus, light-rail and boat accidents and injuries, check out these other articles:
- Jet Si/PWC, Yacht and Boat Accidents in Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina: Personal Injury Lawyers Discuss Boating Accidents
- More Suits Settled In Plane Crash Case
- Light Rail in Norfolk Lacks Emergency Brake System