Who is legally liable for damages in a general aviation accident?

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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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When an aviation accident takes place, and accident or injury results from it, there may be questions regarding who is considered legally liable to compensate the victims. The answer is that legal liability in such a situation will vary – sometimes greatly – depending on the specific details of how the aviation accident occurred. In some cases, it can also depend on where the accident took place.

In the case of an aircraft accident, the number of potentially liable parties varies depending on the cause of the accident. The owner and operator of the aircraft certainly may be liable. Manufacturers or maintenance suppliers may also be liable in certain circumstances. In some instances, legal precedent suggests that a company that leases a plane to an inexperienced pilot may be liable as well.

The main consideration in determining who was liable is what caused the accident in the first place. If it was a problem with the airplane itself, for example, the manufacturer or the maintenance company would likely be the party held responsible. If it was a mistake made by the pilot, the pilot himself and/or the airline he works for may be the ones responsible.

In certain situations, the location of the accident may also factor into the liability issue, because rules regarding aviation are determined on both federal and state levels.

As you can imagine, a legal situation regarding an aviation accident can get very complicated, very quickly. Determining the cause of an accident alone can sometimes be a challenge, and pinning down the responsible party can turn into a difficult legal task. This is why it’s highly recommended for anyone dealing with an aviation accident and the issue of liability – whether as a plaintiff or defendant – should hire an experienced aviation accident lawyer for assistance.

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