It is estimated that approximately 22 percent of aviation accidents are caused by mechanical failures. Under a legal doctrine known as "product liability," manufacturers and sellers of aircraft and aircraft components can be legally liable for injuries and damages if they produce a defective product that contributes to an aviation accident. If you have been injured, or a loved one has been injured or killed in a plane crash due to mechanical failure, you should contact an experienced aviation attorney as soon as possible.
Mechanical Failure Claims
Mechanical failures can be caused by pilot error and misuse or by the actions of maintenance personnel in failing to detect or repair a problem. In those instances, claims may be brought against the pilot, maintenance workers, the airline, or the owner of a private plane under legal theories of negligence. However, even if the pilot or crew did do everything correctly, there are many instances where defective design or manufacture of an aircraft or one of its components is the true cause of an aviation accident. If that is the case, an injured party may file a products liability claim against the manufacturer or seller of the component or the aircraft.
When a product or piece of equipment is the cause of the aviation accident, liability can attach to the manufacturer or seller when:
- The product is defectively designed
- The product is defectively manufactured
- The product contains inadequate warnings or instructions on safe operation
Product liability law varies from state to state on how these three factors are applied to manufacturers. It is therefore important to consult an experienced aviation accident attorney if you have been injured in an airplane crash.
A design defect occurs when a whole product line or every product from a certain model is dangerously defective. For example, design mistakes could make a plane harder to control under certain conditions, or make the airframe more susceptible to stress during take off and landing.
A manufacturing defect exists when the manufacturer fails to produce the product correctly. This means that although the product design might be sound, one or more of the finished products have a defect that make it substandard. The manufacturer may be liable for causing the defect and failing to detect it before the product was sold. Examples of manufacturing defects include the use of substandard materials or faulty assembly.
Failure to Warn
Manufacturers can be held liable if they fail to provide adequate warnings or instructions for the safe use of their products. There are two types of warnings:
- General instructions that come with the product. The product cannot be used safely unless the instructions are sufficient and clear. An example of general instructions might specify operating and weight limits.
- Specific warnings of danger. These are warnings that the manufacture knew of or should have known about, either before the product was sold or when it was discovered after the sale. Examples would include warning labels attached to equipment, placards in the cockpit, or posted emergency procedures.
What is Strict Liability?
Unlike claims against pilots or airlines, a plaintiff in a products liability case does not have to prove negligence or fault on the part of the manufacturer. A victim of an aviation accident can hold a manufacturer or seller strictly liable if it is shown that a defect in the product caused the accident. To establish strict liability in a product liability lawsuit, the injured party must show that:
- The product was defective when it left the manufacturer or seller's control
- The product was used properly and in its intended manner
- The product must have been responsible in some way for the injury resulting from the accident
Strict liability can arise as a result of a defect in the design of a product, the manufacture of a product, or for a failure to warn.
Claims against manufacturers of aircraft or component parts requires detailed knowledge of aviation and the specific laws that apply. If you have suffered injury or the death of a loved one due to an aviation accident, and you suspect mechanical failure is to blame, you should contact an experienced aviation accident attorney as soon as possible. The Law Offices of Sterns & Walker is distinguished by its expertise in this complex area of law and can effectively pursue an aviation accident claim on your behalf.