Who Can be Held Liable in an Aviation Accident?


An aviation accident is like any other form of a traffic accident. Sometimes, nobody can be deemed to be responsible, but this is rare. There is often a cause of the aviation accident, and sadly, someone might be responsible for a tragic and traumatic accident.

Who can be held liable in an aviation accident? If you, or a family member, has been involved in such an accident, should you work with an aviation accident lawyer to put together a claim?

In this guide, we explore some of the circumstances for aviation accidents and whether there can be causation and therefore liability.

What Goes Wrong: Causes of Airplane Crashes

Plane crashes are very uncommon. There are a lot of regulations on airlines and planes have to be kept in great condition, but things can still go wrong and cause crashes.

Examples include:

  • Errors in maintenance. This can come in the form of poor maintenance by airline, or negligence when it comes to specific maintenance plans that planes require.
  • Faulty design. This can be an issue with the manufacturers, poor design or a lack of safety features can cause a lot of mechanical problems and these can lead to accidents.
  • Pilot errors. There have been high profile examples of pilots not meeting the regulations or certifications for flying a plane. There have even been examples of pilots flying under the influence. In examples like this, they might have to assume liability.
  • Not communicating. Communication is very important in the air. It takes a number of people to communicate properly to allow a plane to take off, safely fly to a destination, and land. If this is not done properly then there may be a case for legal action.

Determining Who’s Responsible: Causation and Liability

There are times when nobody will be at fault in the eyes of the law. Some things are legally seen as out of anyone’s control.

If there is clear causation, and therefore blame, who is likely to be responsible?

The manufacturer might be responsible. If the plane itself is defective in any way or designed in a way that can cause accidents to occur then they may be seen as liable in the eyes of the law. There are many restrictions on the production and inspection of aircraft.

The airlines might also be responsible. They have to meet commercial standards. The FAA sets the standards and public carriers have responsibilities to all of their customers.

The operator of the aircraft can also be responsible. A pilot has a liability, but this may be passed on to the employer under a “vicarious liability”.

If you use a private aircraft then it could be that the owner also has to accept some liability. They need to keep the aircraft in good condition but the restrictions aren’t as heavy as public airlines.

What Legal Claims can be Made: Compensation for Loss

There are a number of different claims that might be faced after an aviation accident, and victims can make claims for compensation. Family members may also be able to make claims of compensation for loss if they have lost a loved one.

The claims include strict liability, which is usually to do with the defendant, in this case, the manufacturer, who put the product into the sale. If this causes damage then the manufacturer might be liable.

Negligence claims relate to the duty of care that airlines have when the customer is flying with them. If the defendant was negligent in some way and didn’t stick to their responsibilities then they may face cases under this charge.

If an employee acts unprofessionally or causes an accident then the employer might be liable under “Vicarious Liability”.

If you have lost a loved one in an accident, or you have been injured due to the negligence of an aviation company or pilot, then you might be able to make a claim against this loss. Consult with a legal professional to ensure you know your rights, and what the best way is to build your case and bring anyone culpable to justice. Air travel is generally only dangerous when somebody makes an error or doesn’t fulfill their responsibilities.

The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of The World Financial Review.