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Who is responsible in an aviation accident?

Aviation accidents are some of the worst accidents for an individual to be involved in because of the high likelihood of death. For this reason, it is fortunate that airplane crashes happen rarely. When they do happen, though, it is important for victims and their families to try and determine who was at fault for the crash -- especially if they wish to pursue personal injury or wrongful death damages relating to the incident.

Who might be liable in an aircraft crash? Often, the first place to look for liability in an airplane accident is the owner of the airplane and the operator of the airplane. During the daily care and maintenance of an airplane, it is easy for a negligent owner of an aircraft to overlook key maintenance protocols that result in a dangerous and accident-prone airplane. Similarly, it is easy for a negligent pilot to make an error that leads to a crash. Also, mechanics and manufacturers could be liable in the event of a mechanical failure, so it is important to pinpoint the exact reason for the crash.

In some cases, the owner/operator of an aircraft might be criminally liable for crash. Usually, if a pilot was engaged in reckless flying that resulted in injury or death, states and the federal government will seek to impose criminal sanctions against the pilot. However, it is sometimes difficult for authorities to prove that a particular pilot was criminally negligent in the accident or if the crash was in fact a mere accident.

Pennsylvania residents who have been fortunate enough to survive a plane crash but suffered a serious injury, could have viable claims for damages. Indeed, both injured passengers and injured pilots may want to investigate whether a mechanic, airplane owner or manufacturer's negligence was the cause of the crash. Similarly, family members of deceased victims may want to investigate such information in order to pursue wrongful death claims.

Source: Findlaw, "Aviation Accidents FAQ" accessed Feb. 27, 2015

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