Aviation Accidents

Putting over 60 years of experience representing injured clients to work

Austin Aviation Accident Lawyers

The clear skies of Texas offer many opportunities for personal aircraft activities and helicopter flights catering to tourists and for medical emergencies. Although airline travel is generally one of the safest modes of transportation, there are a number of incidents each year when commercial or personal aircraft encounter problems from a number of causes. Mechanical errors, weather, equipment failure or other difficulties, can all lead to tragic aviation accidents that more often than not result in fatalities.

The attorneys at Byrd Davis Alden & Henrichson, LLP, are highly regarded Austin aviation accident attorneys who have a long record of successful settlements in these catastrophic accidents. If you were injured or lost a loved one in an aircraft accident, call us today for a consultation at 512-454-3751.

What Causes An Aviation Accident?

An equipment malfunction can occur suddenly or it could appear as a result of lack of maintenance or from a defective part. Most airplanes are fixed-wing aircraft, meaning that they use a fixed wing with either a propeller or a jet engine, which is found on both commercial and personal airplanes. There are a number of things that can go wrong with these types of aircraft:

  • Ice on the airframe
  • Defects in design or the plane’s structure
  • Failure to service or maintain
  • Bird strikes
  • Human or pilot error
  • Error by air traffic controller
  • In-flight instrument or avionics failure
  • Fueling errors
  • Pilot inexperience
  • Inclement weather
  • Violation of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations

Cockpit instruments such as altitude indicators and the autopilot can fail without warning. An air traffic controller has to follow certain air traffic control procedures or else collisions or runway mishaps can occur. A pilot or airline should be prepared for bird strike incidents to reduce their happenstance or the damage that can occur.

What Causes Helicopter Crashes?

Helicopters are unusual aircraft. They can fly vertically and at low altitudes, are essential in quickly airlifting critically ill or injured patients, otherwise known as “life flight,” and are commonly used in fighting fires and military missions. They are also highly complex machines and require sophisticated training and maintenance. Helicopter crashes occur during many different scenarios:

  • Sightseeing tours
  • Emergency airlifting
  • Private contractors handling military operations
  • Reporting on traffic conditions
  • Chartered flights

Because of their unique nature, investigating a helicopter accident usually involves more in-depth examination of the causes of an accident.

Helicopter accidents occur from many different causes:

  • Improper maintenance
  • Poor pilot training
  • Operating the aircraft in unsafe weather
  • Failure to appreciate the aircraft’s limitations
  • Electrical source malfunctions
  • Faulty design component such as fuel tanks
  • Inadequate testing

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB)

All aircraft accidents are investigated by the NTSB. Its representatives examine the aircraft’s maintenance history, air traffic control communications, weather, the aircraft itself, and the plane’s cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder or black box. Pilot error accounts for the majority of airplane disasters so the pilot’s actions and training are also investigated.

In nonfatal accidents involving fixed-wing aircraft of less than 12,500 pounds, and homebuilt aircraft, the NTSB may delegate the investigation to the FAA or Federal Aviation Administration. Unfortunately, attorneys for the victims are not permitted to participate in the NTSB investigation. The NTSB will establish the probable cause for the crash but does not allocate blame on the parties who may have contributed to the accident.

For these and other reasons, you will need a law firm that has the resources to uncover the causes and parties responsible in an aircraft accident and to hire credible experts to support causation and liability. The Austin attorneys at Byrd Davis Alden & Henrichson, LLP, will work to preserve evidence. While we cannot participate in the NTSB investigation, our own investigators can conduct a parallel investigation, including interviewing any witness regardless of whether they have been questioned by NTSB investigators. Our experts will also review the cockpit voice recorder transcripts and ground track plots from FAA raw data, examine diagrams and reports, and review or produce our own computer-aided recreations.

Preventing An Aviation Accident

While federal law requires that interstate air carriers maintain at least $30,000 per person and $20,000,000 in insurance coverage, Texas, like most states, does not have mandatory liability insurance requirements. Still, most private carriers in Texas do possess coverage. Commercial airline disasters often occur either in international waters or in other countries. Jurisdictional issues may arise that our attorneys will address, and they will undertake all efforts to see that your claim is handled in a U.S. court where the rules of evidence and damages generally favor victims and their families.

International disasters may be governed by international law in which your claim may have to be litigated pursuant to the Montreal or Warsaw Conventions. Obviously, you will need a law firm like Byrd Davis Alden & Henrichson, LLP, with attorneys who are familiar with international law as it applies to airline accidents.

For victims of aviation accidents involving the military, you may face obstacles to receiving compensation. For example, you cannot sue the U.S. government or the military if you or your loved one was on active military duty. You also cannot bring a negligence claim against contractors who provide services or materials to the military. Civilians, however, may bring claims depending on the contract status or relationship pertaining to the aircraft, including services that were outsourced to private companies.

Choose Experienced Aviation Attorneys

The Austin aviation lawyers from Byrd Davis Alden & Henrichson, LLP, have unusually broad experience in aircraft crash litigation as well as personal experience in operating fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters. We have lawyers with military aircraft experience, including helicopters; pilot instructor training; and degrees in aeronautical science, and success in lawsuits against aircraft manufacturers such as Cessna Aircraft Co., Kaman Aerospace, Bell Helicopter and Avco Lycoming among others.

Airplane and helicopter accidents demand legal representation from attorneys who can handle the complexities and unique issues found in these types of cases. Call Byrd Davis Alden & Henrichson, LLP, today for a no-cost, no-obligation consultation at 512-454-3751.

Some Of Our Notable Aviation Cases

Byrd Davis Alden & Henrichson, LLP, has represented victims of the following aviation accidents involving aircraft similar to those depicted.

1968 — Piedmont Airlines’s midair collision in Asheville, North Carolina.
1968 — Braniff International Airways crash in severe weather over Dawson, Texas, killed 80 passengers.
1973 — Jim Croce was killed when his charter plane crashed into trees in Natchitoches, Louisiana.
1980 — A Scenic Airlines charter plane lost power after takeoff and crashed near the Grand Canyon, killing the pilot and seven passengers.
1985 — Delta Airlines crash at Dallas/Fort Worth airport.
1990 — Stevie Ray Vaughan was killed when his helicopter crashed into a ski slope in fog near East Troy, Wisconsin.
1991 — Seven members of Reba McEntire’s band were killed when their plane crashed into mountainous terrain near San Diego, California.
1991 — United Airlines crash in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
1995 — Porter v. Bell Helicopter — First case that established civil liability of helicopter manufacturers for mast bumping.
2000 — Osprey cases
2001 — Engine seizure brought down a private plane in Haslet, Texas, injuring three.
2003 — Navy helicopter caught fire in flight killing the pilot and three passengers in Italy.
2003 — Airplane wing came off during maneuvers near Montgomery, Texas, killing the pilot and passenger.
2004 — Army helicopter hit television transmission tower in Texas killing seven.
2004 — A cargo plane lost power in Colorado and crashed into terrain killing the pilot and passenger.
2004 — A medical rescue helicopter collided with terrain while attempting to land in a parking lot in Arizona, killing a crew member and seriously injuring the pilot and a second crew member.
2005 — Helicopter crashed en route to Finland, landing in water and killing 14.
2006 — A private pilot was killed when his plane crashed into terrain in Colorado.
2007 — Private plane lost power after takeoff at night and crashed into terrain, killing the pilot and passenger in Texas.

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