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Determining Liability In Airplane Accidents: No Easy Task

Last Updated: Wednesday, July 16, 2015

To determine liability in an airplane accident, you first have to determine who was responsible for the accident. Was it the owner/operator, the manufacturer of the aircraft or violations of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations? It may be a combination of two or all three.

To bring a claim for damages, the plaintiff must first seek the appropriate party to bring the suit against.


If the aircraft has been properly maintained, the liability may fall upon the owner of the aircraft. Due to the dangerous nature of flying, the owner of an aircraft has the responsibility to service and maintain an aircraft on a regular basis in accordance with FAA regulations. Detailed logs and reports must be done on a regular basis to stay in compliance with these regulations. If they failed to service the aircraft as required, the owner may be liable.

If the aircraft has been properly serviced and maintained, the accident may have been the cause of "pilot error." Mistakes in judgment, fatigue, failing to maintain up-to-date training, flying a craft a pilot is not trained to fly are all factors that are taken into consideration. Just like operating any dangerous equipment, if drugs or drinking are involved, the liability may be even greater.


On the other hand, if the aircraft was properly maintained and was piloted properly, the manufacturer of the aircraft may be liable. Not all accidents can be prevented, but if preventative steps are taken to minimize the likelihood of an accident occurring, then the liable party's risk may be diminished accordingly.

If it is determined that a manufacturer of an aircraft or a part for that aircraft knew or should have known that the aircraft was defective and yet allowed the craft to be flown, the liability may rest with the manufacturer. When aircrafts are built, they undergo extensive testing. If an issue is reported that a certain type of issue could have occurred and either issued a warning or replaced the issue, then the manufacturer is liable. This usually falls under a product liability cause of action.

In some instances, the incident may have been the result of faulty equipment whether it was defective from the when it was made or became defective over time. An evaluation of the situation must be made to determine who is responsible for the faulty equipment and what preventive steps may have been taken to prevent the incident from occurring.

FAA Regulations

If an incident occurred as the result of federal guidelines or a mistake made by the FAA Regulations, the liability is placed on the federal government. Then the lawsuit is brought against the federal government. Claims against a governmental entity require permission by that entity to be sued. There are many steps to having this lawsuit brought before a judge.

Seeking Damages

Finding out who is at fault is time consuming and difficult at best, especially if you are dealing with any injuries or death as a result of the accident. Advice of a trained professional is critical to bringing a just and equitable resolution to your case.

The Law Offices of Allan S. Field located at 1850 Fifth Avenue, San Diego, CA 92101 can assist you in determining your legal rights following an aircraft accident. Call today for an appointment at 619-236-8200 to discuss your legal rights.