Aviation Accidents: What Types Of Damages Can You Recover?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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What types of damages are recoverable in an aviation accident lawsuit? To find out, we asked Larry Goldhirsch, a New York plaintiffs’ attorney with 38 years of experience whose practice represents aviation accident victims. Here’s what he told us:

  • Lost wages / medical expenses. Lost wages and medical expenses may be covered. Some states don’t permit the recovery of medical expenses if they’re paid by insurance. However, those are basically the damages for personal injury, including the loss of the enjoyment of life due to your personal injuries.
  • Pain and suffering. Generally speaking, damages will be for someone’s pain and suffering which is an amount to be determined by a jury. There’s no set amount such as for a broken arm or broken leg. It has to be decided by a jury and will depend on the circumstances of the case.
  • Wrongful death. For wrongful death, damages vary from state to state, or country to country, depending on where the passenger lived during his lifetime. A wrongful death case encompasses either the earnings of a person during his lifetime or the amounts of monies that that person gave to his or her immediate family and the lost guidance that that person gave. Some places have the loss of society, which means the affection, love and the consortium and services – the value of tasks such as working on the house or babysitting.

International issues

Recovering for damages can be very complicated – especially when international law is involved. Goldhirsch, who authored a book on international aviation law, provided the following example:

Let’s say a citizen of Switzerland is flying from New York to Switzerland and the plane crashes off the coast of Canada. Many different jurisdictions have involvement in that case, especially if the person is of foreign nationality. Would Swiss law apply? Would American law apply? Would Canadian law apply? Would Maritime law apply if it crashed into the sea off the coast of Canada?

These are questions that come up in all of these cases and many times, a person who’s sitting on a plane next to another person, are from two different jurisdictions. They will recover different amounts based on where they’re from, rather than where the accident took place.

One person may recover a million dollars; the other may only collect $500,000 – even if he had the same job and income as the first – because he comes from a country that has different rights of entitlement to damages for wrongful death. It can get very, very complicated.

Make sure that you are adequately compensated for your injuries by contacting an experienced lawyer  whose practice focuses in this area of the law. Consultations are free, without obligation and are strictly confidential.

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