Aviation Accidents Theories and Liabilities

In June 2009, two massive aviation accidents rocked the airline industry. The first was Air France Flight 447 crashed into the Atlantic Ocean on 1 June 2009 and killed 216 passengers and 12 crew members. Officials called it the deadliest crash in the history of Air France and it appears that the aircraft encountered a severe thunderstorm, likely containing severe turbulence. Yemenia Flight 626 crashed on 30 June 2009 en route to Comoros. There are an unconfirmed aviation accident report that the plane had crashed after an aborted landing as a result of inclement weather. There were 152 fatalities. A twelve-year old girl survived.

Definition of an Aviation Accident

The Convention on International Civil Aviation Annex 13 defines aviation accident as an occurrence associated with the operation of an aircraft which takes place between the time any person boards the aircraft with the intention of flight and all such persons have disembarked, wherein a person is fatally or seriously injured, the aircraft sustains damage or structural failure and/or the aircraft is missing or is completely inaccessible.

Generally, while air lines are considered to be a safe means of transportation, when accidents do occur, it results to absolute fatalities. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) expects commercial air travel to double over the next 20 years and with it, increased aviation accident statistics.

Laws of Aviation Accidents

Aviation accident law covers both major air carrier and general aviation accidents. In the United States, these laws are regulated and implemented by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). According to the NTSB, human error and mechanical difficulties are the most common reasons behind aviation accidents. Thus, the FAA sets safety standards for pilot conduct, flight operations, and aircraft manufacture to eradicate, if not reduce the number of aircraft accidents. But the violation of FAA regulations for flight can endanger the safety of the passengers and crew of a plane and can result in airplane crash injuries and airplane deaths. Poorly trained pilots, faulty equipment or even poorly maintained equipment can cause a tragic crash easily. This in turn, gives rise to aviation accident liability claims.

Passengers who get hurt, or die may be compensated for the damages and death incurred as a result of the accident. Just like any other personal injury claim, recoverable damages include:

  • Past and future medical expenses
  • Lost wages and, lost earning capacity
  • Past and future pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Loss of consortium/association (usually available to married couples only)
  • Punitive damages
  • Wrongful death would also include medical, hospital, funeral and burial expenses and losses suffered by the decedent's spouse, children, or next of kin such as loss of financial support, service, valuable gratuities, and parental training and guidance.

Aviation accident litigation can be complex. Several parties can be held liable, depending on the proximate cause of the accident as there are different theories of liability based on Common Carrier, State, Federal and even International Law. The owner and operator of an airline company certainly may be liable, manufacturers or maintenance suppliers can also be held liable in certain circumstances and even the federal government may bear some responsibility for the accident. Thus, in case you're a victim of an aviation accident, it is best to consult a lawyer.

Epidemiology: Crucial in Establishing Causation

Cases often involve complicated and technical issues which require an expert testimony. An expert testimony is called upon to properly interpret scientific literature and burden of proof and its relationship to the case at hand. When health or illness becomes an issue, epidemiologists are called to share their expertise. Epidemiology is a study of factors that affect the health and illness of a group of people. Epidemiologists are often tasked with working on cases involving the community or group of people who are exposed to hazardous waste or have taken the same drug with adverse reaction.

Significance of Epidemiology to Legal Case

Epidemiology evaluates the risk created by hazardous matters to the human body which is done by extrapolating data from animals to humans. When epidemiologic findings is taken along with toxicological data and clinical observations, the result is extraordinary powerful and informative at least to the human disease under scrutiny. Epidemiology finds its significance mostly in toxic tort litigation. The following are the processes involved in its application:

  1. Epidemiologist determines and documents the exposures of interest.
  2. Subsequently, the existence of association between the exposure and development of the illness or disease as well as the estimation of risk are determined.
  3. Depending on the details of a particular case and the available data, the epidemiological tools used to investigate the connection between the exposure and disease could and would vary.
  4. If a connection subsists and excess risk is determined, the next step would be to evaluate causation.
  5. Causation is the "causal relationship between the conduct and result". It involves the careful and methodological consideration of weighing evidence. The role of epidemiology is crucial in the establishment of causation. The processes of evaluating causation and the tools that epidemiologists use are widely agreed upon that even scientists employ.

    Through employing the above processes, causal relationships are identified. In fact, epidemiologists are the key expert in the establishment of caution. They can clearly articulate and explain complicated concepts and principle to the judge and the juries. They provide additional aviation litigation support specifically in deposition strategy and line of questioning with the opposition's expert counsel.

    Having said it all, it is the task of the epidemiologist to give a scientifically sound evaluation of the merits of the case and provide advice on how to establish causation. Moreover, the findings that a certain substance causes adverse effects on health could be considered evidence in areas such as medicine, environmental sciences, toxicology, epidemiology and others.

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