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Determining Fault in General Aviation Accidents

Determining fault in airplane accidents involving general aviation disasters is often quite complex, requiring legal representation by attorneys who understand the world of aviation. Part of that complexity lies in the fact that the plaintiff is most often the family member of someone who may have died or been seriously injured in that crash — an accident in which the pilot himself may not have survived. Part of that complexity also lies in the myriad of factors that may have led to the accident.

The most common of these involve piloting issues in which the flight was not planned properly (or prepared at all), a lack of fuel, stalling of the aircraft and/or a failure on the part of the pilot to handle a specific maneuver. Whether the pilot was current in his licensing and had proper medical clearance should also be examined.

General aviation usually involves smaller aircraft which do not have data or voice recording equipment installed. This requires an investigation in to what happened before the aircraft crashed. Data can be gathered from voice communications with air traffic control and by obtaining air traffic control’s record of the aircraft’s radar path (NTAP data). Collecting this data soon after a crash is crucial in piecing together the puzzle of what caused the crash. Voice and NTAP data is retained for a limited period of time. Thus, it is crucial that a potential plaintiff expediently seek legal counsel skilled in obtaining this evidence. The NTSB data can also be helpful in finding the cause of a crash. However, qualified aviation counsel we advise against relying solely on the NTSB to find all causes related to a general aviation disaster.

Weather is another leading cause of aviation crashes. The National Center for Climatic Data (NCDC) archives weather data and is a valuable tool for analyzing what role weather played in an aircraft crash. Weather data is used to determine if the pilot or air traffic controller should have used alternative routes to avoid dangerous conditions.

Mechanical defects in the aircraft can also lead to crashes. A detailed examination of aircraft wreckage is key to understanding if a problem existed with an aircraft engine or airframe prior to the crash. Such a wreckage inspection if conducted with trained forensic aviation experts and and can take a considerable amount of time to find and examine potential defects. Because resources helpful in determining fault can disappear if not requested early on, the most important thing a potential aviation plaintiff can do is seek qualified counsel as soon as possible.

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