Plane crashes are rare compared to other types of accidents. Unfortunately, when they do happen, they result in fatalities and catastrophic injuries to the survivors. Not every injury is classified as catastrophic. When an injury is devastating, it means the victim suffered damages to their body that are permanent and alter their lives forever. Catastrophic injuries are expensive to treat, and chances of a full recovery are rare. Most victims of catastrophic plane accidents require life-long care and assistance in doing what they used to do before with ease. If you are involved in a plane crash accident that leaves you with these injuries, the law allows you to seek compensation.
All the financial and nonfinancial costs that you incur as a result of the injuries can be compensated. Speaking with an attorney to help you with your claim is crucial in ensuring you receive reasonable damages. At Orange County Personal Injury Attorney, we have experience in these types of applications and will assist you with you in seeking damage claims.
Overview of Plane Crashes
People travel with commercial airlines or private aircraft. The frequency of commercial plane crashes is much lower compared to that of private planes. When a big commercial plane crashes, it becomes big news, mainly because it involves hundreds of people facing death or catastrophic injuries. Commercial airplanes are held in higher regard because they are expected to practice more significant safety levels when safeguarding their passengers.
Private aircrafts are involved in accidents more often than commercial planes. This makes private flying more dangerous, and many of the accidents are not considered important news unless the crash involved a prominent person. Whatever the case, the private aviation industry is expected to compensate victims of plane crashes involving their planes in California.
Cargo planes are also involved in crashes. Although they are only used for carrying goods only, the products often are accompanied by staff and pilots. These, too, can suffer death or catastrophic injuries when a crash occurs.
Types of Plane Accidents Resulting in Catastrophic Injuries
Plane crashes are rare compared to regular traffic accidents, but when they happen, they cause catastrophic injuries, as described below. The reasons for these accidents are varied and are essential in determining the party responsible for the damages. Some of the prevalent types of plane crashes are:
- Accidents when the pilot loses control of the plane while flying
- Accidents due to failure of a system component
- Accidents due to complications related to fuel
- Crashes due to operating at low altitudes
Despite these and other causes, common plane accidents are the following:
Accidents Due to Pilot Error
Every pilot must have accumulated at least 40 hours of flying before getting a license to operate. Aside from the FAA requirement, a pilot must pass a knowledge test, medical exam, TSA’s (Transport Security Administration) authorization, and flight test. Despite all these, a pilot is still able to make an error.
One of the common causes of accidents in smaller planes is the inexperience of the pilot. Compared to car drivers, a motorist is expected to handle any emergencies or challenges they face on the road. A pilot is also expected to know how to handle various problems when confronted by them. Sometimes a storm, strong wind or other conditions can happen when least expected. A pilot must be able to navigate through these challenges.
Accidents Due to Bad Weather
When a severe storm happens, bigger planes can fly above the winds. Unfortunately, this is not the case with smaller aircraft. Smaller planes are more vulnerable to accidents when faced with sudden weather changes. For instance, when lightning strikes, a small plane can suffer total electrical failure. This is besides many other complications that will cause the aircraft to crash.
Pilots flying smaller planes need to understand the various weather conditions that are actual or anticipated. With this knowledge, they will be able to change their flight course to avoid crashing.
Aircraft Malfunction Accident
Planes can also suffer from malfunction despite the care taken in maintaining and ensuring they are in excellent condition. When they crash, most commercial airplanes result in more fatalities while in smaller plane crashes, the passengers and crew have a higher chance of surviving.
A mechanical error that causes malfunction can occur with a small or big aircraft. Fortunately for smaller planes, an experienced pilot can navigate the aircraft to land in an unprepared or rural area. Unfortunately for bigger planes, this maneuver may be impossible. The speed at which they move and their size makes it impossible to make a landing in such an area. This results in a tragic crash. When the equipment fails, there is little a pilot can do despite their experience.
Fuel Complication Accidents
Complications due to the fuel can cause accidents. If the engine's fuel transmission is not sound or the plane starts losing fuel, it can crash. In this case, the crash will result in catastrophic injuries, especially burns when the plane bursts into flames mid-air.
Low Altitude Accidents
There is an altitude that is suitable for flying. When a plane is flown at very low altitudes, it is likely to collide with other flying objects such as birds. When a bird is trapped in the plane’s engine or propeller, it causes a malfunction. This, in most cases, will result in a crash that would result in fatalities and catastrophic injuries to the survivors.
Types of Catastrophic Injuries in Airplane Accidents
As stated earlier, catastrophic injuries are those that cause significant damage to the victim and leave them with permanent disabilities. Of all the accidents that cause injuries, plane crashes are the kinds that produce some of the most significant injuries. Some of these injuries are:
When a plane gets off the runway and crashes or develops mechanical issues and crashes from the sky, fire usually erupts. The fire can be as a result of friction when the plane strikes something and the sparks light the aircraft's highly combustible fuel. When the fire erupts, it is often very intense, making it difficult to extinguish it.
Survivors often suffer catastrophic burns that leave them with permanent disfigurement. The injuries result in lengthy stays in the hospital and treatments that may involve surgical procedures. Sometimes the wounds, especially when the victims inhale the gas fumes cause damages to the internal organs. This further complicates the treatment procedure because the injuries are sensitive.
Burns often cause permanent disfigurement. Surgeries are done to try reconstructing the person’s face or body, but it is impossible to get back to where the person was before. When the human body suffers significant burns, healing of the skin in most cases leaves the victim unable to use some of their body parts. Irrespective of the number of reconstructive surgeries undertaken, it is almost impossible for the victim to enjoy life again.
When the burns extend to the internal organs, it may mean the victim will require organ transplant to replace the affected organs. Sometimes a donor for the organ may not be available, or they have to wait a long time before a suitable one is found. During this time, the victim continues to suffer from pain and inability to live their lives as they used to.
Catastrophic Brain and Neck Injuries
Unfortunately, many survivors of airplane crashes suffer devastating brain trauma and neck injuries. These kinds of injuries often leave the patient in a vegetative state, requiring care for the rest of their lives. Most of these victims are never able to work for the rest of their lives, losing their income, and a way of livelihood.
Because of the high cost of treatment, these victims are assisted all through by caregivers employed explicitly for that. This, without a doubt, is costly to the family and the victim as well. Victims of catastrophic brain and neck injuries also suffer from cognitive dysfunction all their life. This means their ability to make decisions is impaired and rely on others to run their lives.
Inability to move their limbs, emotional challenges, and abnormal speech are some of the other effects of these injuries. The victims go through their lives, unable to do anything for themselves, and are unable to enjoy life.
Victims of these injuries go through extensive treatment procedures to try to get their lives back, but it is hardly possible. The effects of these injuries to their emotions are high, causing many to require extended periods of psychological treatment.
Spinal Cord Injuries
Injuries to the spine are common in plane crashes. Injuries to the spine result in paralysis either partially or entirely. When a person suffers these injuries, it means they are unable to use their limbs or can partially use them. A victim can be paralyzed from the neck down or the torso down.
Paralysis that starts from the neck means the injured victim cannot use their limbs or any other part of their body. These injuries are so severe because the victim loses feeling for the rest of their body. This means the victim will not control their bowel movement or have bladder control. These victims must be fitted with a catheter to remove their urine and diapers to avoid soiling themselves. A caregiver must be available all the time to care for them by cleaning them, changing them, feeding them, and even turning them in bed.
When the victim suffers partial paralysis, they will lose feeling in some parts of their bodies. For instance, they may not be able to walk again, but they can use their hands. These injuries are less severe to those of complete paralysis because the victim can learn to be independent over time.
Spinal cord injuries also result in other types of complications. The victim can suffer chronic pain, and experience exaggerated spasms or reflexes, respiratory challenges, and circulatory problems. Treatment for these injuries takes a long time. Some of these damages, like those of respiratory or reflexes, can be life-long to the victim.
Airplane accidents result in amputations either at the scene or because of the damage to the particular body parts. Sometimes, the impact causes the limbs to disconnect or are cut off from the rest of the victim’s body while other times, the bones are crushed such that no reconstructive surgery can save the body part.
Losing a body part means you will spend the rest of your life without it. This is traumatic psychologically to the victim even when they use prosthetics to replace the lost limb. An amputee will go through excruciating pain as they learn how to use their artificial limbs again.
Plane crashes can also result in the loss of eyesight to the victim. When one was born with perfect vision, and due to an accident, they lose it, it is devastating. The sight can be lost permanently with some injuries, while some can regain it over a prolonged time. The victim may have to endure extensive surgeries to correct their eyesight, but still not gain full functioning of their eyes.
This victim must learn how to walk without seeing, rely on the other senses to do things, and often rely on others to do something for them. This is also traumatic to the victim psychologically and may require them to go through extended periods of psychotherapy.
Losing hearing is a catastrophic injury. The loud bang of the plane crashing or other reasons can result in a victim losing their hearing for good. The victim will have to learn how to communicate in sign language because they cannot hear others. This is a very traumatic experience psychologically for the victim and leaves them with a life-long disability.
Most plane crashes result in the death of their victims. Although death is not an injury, it is a traumatic or catastrophic result of a plane crash. A victim of a plane crash can suffer injuries at the scene or as a result of the injuries sustained.
When this occurs, the living family is devastated by their untimely death. The law allows the victim’s family to receive damages for the wrongful death of their family member.
Lifelong Costs of Catastrophic Injuries
As earlier stated, catastrophic injuries require extended treatment and hospitalization for long periods. Most victims are left unable to earn a living due to the injuries sustained or even care for their personal needs. The costs of treatment, round the clock nursing care, psychological therapy, among others, destroy the victim’s finances. Some of the expenses associated with catastrophic injuries are:
- Emergency medical costs
- Consistent medical care
- Cost of visiting nursing care
- Cost of medications
- Occupational and physical therapy costs
- Costs of psychotherapy
- Costs of medical equipment such as wheelchairs, a hospital bed in the house, a lift, among others
- Costs of remodeling your home to be suitable for wheelchair movement
- Inability to earn a living
- Lost wages
- Emotional distress
- Pain and suffering
- Permanent disfigurement.
The most unfortunate thing about catastrophic injuries is that their repercussions are always felt despite the time passed since the accident. For instance, when a victim suffers spinal injuries, long after the accident, they may develop respiratory challenges as a result of the trauma they experienced.
Other victims that suffer traumatic brain injuries may endure lifelong headaches, memory loss or cognitive challenges, making it impossible to maintain a job.
These costs are expected to be compensated, but sometimes the compensation you receive may not be sufficient to cover the damages. Getting a skilled attorney to seek these damages on your behalf is essential in ensuring you are reasonably awarded.
Liability in Plane Crashes in California
When you survive a plane crash or lose a loved one, your next question would be who bears the responsibility of the costs and wrongful death. When a lawsuit comes up pursuant to your damages, establishing liability is most crucial.
In California, there are two ways of determining liability in a plane crash. These are:
When a plane crashes, investigations into the cause take months. This means the victims of the accident wait over more extended periods to receive compensation for their damages. The legal claims notwithstanding, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) seek to understand the cause and how to prevent a similar crash in the future.
When a crash involves a commercial aircraft, there is an increased duty of care because commercial aircraft are common carriers. This means the owner of the aircraft is liable for the damages because they have a legal responsibility to keep you safe.
When a private aircraft is involved in an accident, investigations are carried out to determine negligence on the part of the pilot or the aircraft owner. Negligence may be due to the following:
- Pilot error
- The plane’s owner
- The aircraft manufacturer
- The aircraft maintenance company
- The federal government
In this case, the federal government is responsible for employing air traffic controllers that guide and direct pilots while in flight, as well as when landing. If these employees make a mistake, it can result in the crashing of the aircraft. In such a case, the government is considered liable for the damages. This means, in seeking damages, your lawyer will pursue the government to get you compensated.
Strict Product Liability
You could have a strict product liability claim when the aircraft crashed as a result of mechanical or equipment failure. When this is the case, the responsible party could be the manufacturer of the part of the aircraft. Generally, when pursuing damages due to a defective part, the suit would be for:
- Defects in the design – This is when a product is made and how it was designed causes a problem. The product may not perform as expected, even when used as was intended.
- Defects in the marketing – This kind of claim happens when a process or part fails to have the right warnings or instructions, and sometimes no warning.
- Defects in manufacturing – This happens when a product was safely designed, but it was done improperly on production. The manufactured product, in this case, does not match the design of the product.
Because of the complexity of a plane, many parts from multiple manufacturers are used in its manufacture. After completing the investigation, the agency investigating makes a statement indicating the cause of the accident.
Compensable Damages Following an Airplane Accident
Following an aviation accident, victims can receive three types of damages. These are:
Economic damages is the monetary value associated with the expenses incurred due to the injury. These damages are supported by documents indicating the cost. Some of the damages under this are:
- Medical expenses – As earlier established, most injuries from a plane crash are often catastrophic, resulting in high costs in treating them. A victim of a plane accident can be compensated for all the costs of treating their injuries that include medication, surgical procedures, medical equipment, and artificial limbs, among other expenses. The attending doctor, in this case, makes a comprehensive report of the injuries and the cost of treatment. If the injuries require a lifetime of medical care, this too is included in the report for compensation.
- Lost wages – As a victim recovers from the injuries, they will miss work and lose earnings. These earnings are calculated and awarded as damages. In most cases, victims that suffer catastrophic injuries are unable to earn a living. Their lost earnings for the rest of their lives are calculated and awarded as damages.
- Funeral expenses – When a victim dies as a result, the cost of burying them is paid to the family.
These are the costs that have no value attached to them. Some of the compensable damages under this are:
- Pain and suffering – Victims of an airplane crash, suffer significant amounts of pain due to their injuries. Although their suffering is not quantifiable, there is compensation for their pain.
- Lost consortium – These are damages awarded to the spouse or children of the victim. If the injuries make it impossible for the victim to show affection to their loved ones as before, the loss of that companionship is compensable.
- Emotional distress – Most victims of airplane crashes suffer emotional stress due to life-altering injuries. Compensation for their emotional pain is awarded as well.
Punitive damages are awarded to punish the defendant of their negligence and to deter them from repeating the mistake. Corporations are mostly the ones expected to pay punitive damages. However, if there is proof of gross negligence on a smaller company or a person, punitive damages may be awarded.
Find an Injury Lawyer Near Me
Airplane accidents, although rare, do happen, leaving significant expenses and injuries to the victims. The costs of treating catastrophic injuries are high and are for a lifetime. While no amount of money can reverse the tragedy, it helps in cushioning against the financial damages and other damages the victim suffers. Getting an experienced attorney to fight for your costs will ensure you receive reasonable compensation. At Orange County Personal Injury Attorney, we help many clients seeking damages from aircraft crashes. Give us a call at 714-876-1959, and we will pursue your compensation for you.