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Florida personal injury lawyers



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    The Ultimate Legal Guide to Airplane Accidents

    Who is entitled to compensation after an airplane accident? How much is your claim worth? Aviation accident victims have many questions after an incident, especially if they’re injured and facing financial hardships. Understanding the personal injury process and working with an expert aviation accident attorney can help you and your family win the justice you deserve.

    When most people think of airplane accidents, they likely envision a sizeable commercial airline plummeting from the sky. Those scenes are horrible, but there are many other types of aviation incidents, like runway overshoots, small aircraft crashes, helicopter accidents, land side injuries (airport and jet bridge), and landing gear issues. These types of accidents happen much more frequently.

    Click here to speak with an attorney. We’re here to offer you the support you and your family need.

    The aviation industry is much safer today than in its infancy, but flying isn’t risk-free. Every time someone gets on a plane, they’re handing their fate over to people they believe are qualified and are following the law. Aviation accidents are among the 15 most common travel injuries in the United States each year.

    Passengers’ lack of control and what’s at stake are reasons the aviation industry is so regulated. There are protections in place for families whose loved ones suffer injuries or tragic death.

    However, navigating the legal system after an airplane accident is often challenging for families still reeling from the impacts of a crash. Usually, victims injured or killed in an aviation accident need a skilled lawyer to handle their lawsuit. With the right legal advice and resources, you can win compensation to cover medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering, disability, and other costs associated with your accident.

    Here is your ultimate guide to getting started on aviation and airplane accident personal injury lawsuits.

    Lawyers Answer the Question of Liability

    Liability is one of the main challenges of pursuing a lawsuit after an airplane crash. Aviation companies often present complex jurisdictional problems because plane crashes happen globally. There are also international airlines that fly here in the United States. A faulty parts manufacturer might be based in India or China, making seeking damages more difficult.

    It’s sometimes unclear who is liable for victims’ injuries or death. Typically, experienced lawyers will spend months looking into case evidence and examining the scene to determine who is at fault for what happened.

    However, here are some possible liable parties and the potential roles they play in aviation accidents:

    • Air Traffic Control – The ground crew and air traffic control are responsible for managing airplane traffic in the sky and on the ground in their airspace. They use a combination of sight, charts, and radar to arrange for orderly flight patterns and takeoffs and landings.
    • Flight Personnel – This can include pilots, flight attendants, maintenance teams, etc. They are responsible for the safe and orderly operation of the aircraft and how they respond to any emergencies or changes in weather conditions.
    • Weather Service Units – The weather profoundly impacts how safe it is to fly. So much so that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) created units staffed by meteorologists to feed pilots and airports live weather information. Their feeds help planes avoid storms, strong turbulence, and other unfriendly conditions.
    • Airlines – Certainly, airlines face potential liability in any aviation accident because they’re responsible for maintaining the aircraft. Airplanes need a lot of maintenance and must pass stringent safety checks before they fly.
    • Aviation Manufacturing Companies – In addition to the companies that make the planes, an entire ecosystem of parts manufacturers supplies the aviation industry. Flaws in design, warnings, or manufacturing could mean a manufacturer can be held liable after an accident.
    • Airplane Owners – In accidents that involve small aircraft, owners are often held liable for accidents because they’re directly responsible for flying and maintaining the aircraft.

    Learn about some other frequent causes of aviation disasters and cases Leighton Panoff Law handles here.

    Private Vs. Commercial Airplane Accidents

    Even though large commercial airplane accidents get most of the attention in the news, most aviation accidents happen with or in small private aircraft. Why?

    • Private aircraft are usually smaller
    • They’re susceptible to weather
    • They have fewer safety procedures in place
    • Pilots are often less experienced than commercial pilots
    • Less oversight
    • Single-pilot aircraft
    • Many are not instrument rated and rely solely only visual navigation

    Smaller planes and helicopters are popular in the United States. Here in Florida, for example, you can spot them dotting the skies as they carry families and businesspeople across the region. People fly on private planes and helicopters because it gives them greater flexibility in how they travel.

    However, the reasons stated above make flying smaller private planes more dangerous than flying in a commercial airliner.

    That doesn’t mean commercial airline accidents don’t happen. However, they typically involve many more people, which puts them on the front page of almost every newspaper.

    Most commercial airline accidents happen because of engine failure. People also are injured when a commercial plane travels through severe turbulence. Other reasons for commercial accidents include:

    • Pilot error
    • Computer error
    • Weather changes
    • Air traffic control mistakes
    • Terrorism

    Large airliners are highly complex. They always have multiple pilots to decrease the chances of failure or mistakes. The U.S. government regulates airlines closely to maintain confidence in flying.

    Seeking Damages with Help from an Airplane Accident Lawyer

    Aviation accidents in a helicopter, small airplane, or a large commercial airline often cause severe injuries and lingering trauma. People make an impact at high speeds, which leads to broken bones, brain damage, and death.

    It happens more often than people imagine. Check out this list of 2020 Florida plane accidents.

    Victims of airline accidents frequently deal with lifelong injuries, pain, and suffering that impact everything from their ability to work to their willingness to fly again.

    Thankfully, the legal system in the United States offers pathways for victims to win compensation to help pay for:

    • Medical Bills
    • Lost Income
    • Wrongful Death
    • Pain & Suffering
    • Disability and disfigurement

    These are just some of the costs victims face as they manage the effects of an accident. Working with a lawyer who specializes in airplane accident lawsuits can help you and your family win compensation faster, earning the justice you deserve after a flight gone horribly wrong.

    We use a team of aviation accident lawyers, nurses, doctors, paralegals, investigators, and aviation experts to gather evidence and pursue maximum compensation for aviation victims.

    Understanding the Role of Punitive Damages

    Lawyers represent victims in airplane crash accident claims. In this case, your typical victim is the plaintiff, and the airline, airplane owner, manufacturer, etc., are the defendants.

    Punitive damages have two purposes in an accident claim:

    1. They punish the defendants for past conduct. For instance, they make a company pay for grossly negligent acts that resulted in injuries or death.
    2. They discourage (deter) similar events from happening in the future. For example, when an airline has to pay significant damages, they warn other industry players and incentivize them to follow better safety protocols.

    Knowing whether you can pursue punitive damages is essential for your case. Many states place limits on punitive damages for injuries or death that happen in airplane accidents.

    Again, working with an experienced aviation lawyer will help you know whether pursuing punitive damages is a good option. At Leighton Panoff Law, we handle cases that involve injuries to:

    • Airline personnel
    • Airport workers
    • Passengers
    • Property owners
    • Drivers on the road
    • Bystanders
    • First responders

    Click here to learn more about personal injuries and the claims process. 

    Understanding Your Settlement Options After an Airplane Accident

    The evidence in your case and the stress of going to trial often mean that settlements are the best path forward. With expert representation, plaintiffs receive compensation appropriate for injuries suffered or death, and defendants avoid a lengthy legal process.

    Not all settlements happen the same way. Your lawyer will look at the circumstances of your case, the other parties involved, and how to best proceed. Here are some possible avenues:

    1. Lawyer-to-Lawyer Discussions – This is usually the first level of engagement in any airplane accident settlement discussions. Lawyers will verbally connect or use written communication to demand or offer compensation.
    2. Meetings Between Attorneys & Insurance Providers – Insurance providers have the final say regarding settlement payments in an accident lawsuit because they sign the check. At some point, the defendant’s attorneys will involve an insurance representative.
    3. Meetings with the Plaintiff – Eventually, the defendants and their lawyers will want to meet with the plaintiff to gauge how they respond to compensation offers. A seasoned lawyer representing a plaintiff will know when the time is right for them to attend meetings.
    4. Meetings with All Parties – In some cases, settlement meetings with clients, lawyers, and insurers are the most effective. They usually involve less back and forth and can easily reach an amicable resolution. However, lawyers sometimes hesitate to bring everyone together, especially if emotions run high between the plaintiffs and the defendants.

    Winning the Compensation that You Deserve

    Families can struggle with the effects of an airplane accident long after the incident is over. For example, in the 2013 Asiana Airlines crash in San Francisco, many passengers suffered severe spinal injuries even though they were wearing their seatbelts.

    Their injuries underscore the strength of the impact when the plane hit the ground before the runway, leaving them with pain for years after the crash.

    When your lawyers negotiate settlement payments with the airlines or a parts manufacturer, they must account for the long-term impacts of the accident because defendants and their lawyers will include indemnity provisions.

    The aviation law experts at Leighton Panoff Law have a proven track record of winnings substantial judgments for airplane accident victims.

    Some of our recent settlements include:

    $2,800,000 settlement – Aviation crash resulting in death in Osceola County, FL
    $500,000 settlement – Smoke inhalation injuries
    $430,000 settlement – Jet bridge injury
    $300,000 settlement – Broken hand in evacuation slide

    These are examples of how we help victims win money to pay for medical bills and the trauma that results from airplane accidents. The amounts represent the gross recovery in each case. Each case is unique and must be evaluated on its own merits. Talk to the team at Leighton Panoff Law to hear how we can help. 

    What Is Indemnity?

    Most settlement agreements include indemnity clauses that state that the defendant cannot be held liable for any future related costs. So, for instance, a plaintiff cannot agree to a settlement proposal and then change their mind that the compensation isn’t sufficient years down the road.

    As a result, accident victims must understand the settlement’s scope before signing anything.

    Out of Court vs. Court-Mandated Settlements

    Clear instances of fraud, recklessness, or negligence often reach a settlement out of court. However, when there is overwhelming evidence, defendants typically want to resolve the case quickly to save money and limit damage to their reputation.

    For example, if a plane or helicopter crash happens because a pilot was flying drunk or there was a blatant disregard for maintenance, there is little chance the liable parties will win in court. In fact, taking such egregious cases to court sometimes backfire, and cost defendants more money.

    However, some cases are not so clear-cut. For example, if a mechanical failure leads to a plane crash, there will sometimes be challenges over who is responsible. Many times air crashes are caused by a combination of failures leading to the disaster. Is it the manufacturer or the aircraft owner or the pilot or the air traffic control or the maintenance?  Was weather a major factor? These cases can go to court because defendants feel like they were not at fault and are willing to let a judge or jury decide on the merits of the case.

    Hiring an experienced lawyer improves the chances of a favorable outcome whether you settle out of court or take the case to trial.

    How to Hire an Airplane Accident Lawyer

    Choosing the right attorney and legal team increases your chances of winning more compensation after an airplane accident. A higher payment means you get more resources to take care of your family, recover from injuries, and return to normal life faster.

    Here’s what you should look for when you’re hiring a lawyer:

    • Experience – Have they handled similar cases? Do they have experience with catastrophic aviation cases and only represent accident victims?
    • Successful Outcomes – What were the outcomes of their cases? What sort of compensation did they win for their clients?
    • Trial Experience – It’s nice to know your lawyer has won cases in court if your case makes it that far.
    • A Good Working Relationship – Your lawyer should maintain good communication throughout your claim and work closely with you to address your needs.
    • Resources – Aviation accident cases require investigators and expert witnesses. These cases are very complex, and only specialized attorneys know all the details.

    Leighton Panoff Law works with aviation accident victims to win compensation after negligence, reckless actions, and other issues. John Leighton is a board-certified civil trial specialist with over 35 years of experience winning settlements for accident victims. We aggressively pursue damages to cover medical costs and other expenses related to your recovery. Tell us about your case and how we can move things forward as quickly as possible.

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