Aircraft accidents can have devastating impacts on passengers and their families. For instance, many aircraft accidents result in permanent injuries or deaths that can take a severe physical and emotional toll on victims. If you or a loved one was involved in an aircraft accident, it is important that you contact an experienced California aircraft accident lawyer who can help protect your rights.

Accident Causes

Aircraft accidents can happen for a variety of reasons, but some of the most common include:

  • Errors made by pilots or air traffic controllers;
  • Mechanical defects;
  • Inferior maintenance; and
  • Fuel contamination.

Pilot Error

Pilot errors are one of the leading causes of aircraft accidents. A pilot error is a mistake or negligent act committed by a pilot during the operation of an aircraft. The most common types of pilot error include:

  • Navigation mistakes;
  • Inadequate monitoring;
  • Failure to follow safety procedures;
  • Miscommunication with air traffic controllers; and
  • Incorrect use of landing gear.

Usually, pilot errors are unintentional, but a pilot can also be held liable if he or she was negligent or violated a government safety regulation. Determining whether a pilot breached the standard of care owed to passengers is largely dependent on the type of airplane he or she was flying. Commercial pilots are held to a stricter standard than private pilots because the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has imposed a series of regulations and procedures that apply strictly to them. Liability in these types of cases will depend on whether any of the regulations were violated and whether that violation caused an accident. Private pilots are not regulated by federal law, so they are only held to the typical negligence standard which requires them to possess the skills of an average pilot and to use reasonable care. If a pilot’s error caused an accident, an injured passenger can filed a personal injury lawsuit against the pilot, but also against the airline.


Reviewing certain records can help determine who was at fault in an aircraft accident. The most common types of evidence include:

  • Flight data;
  • Crash photos;
  • Maintenance and inspection records;
  • Flight plans;
  • Cockpit recordings;
  • Air traffic control records;
  • Operation manuals; and
  • Manufacturers’ records.

Mechanical Failures

Another of the most common causes of aircraft accidents is mechanical error. Manufacturers and distributors of the aircraft and its parts can be held liable for damages if the part or design that caused or contributed to the accident was defective. In a product liability claim, a manufacturer will be held responsible for an injury sustained in an aircraft accident when a product’s manufacturing or design was defective or when warnings and precautions were inadequate.

Strict Liability

When a defective product was the cause of an accident, the injured party will not need to prove that the manufacturer was negligent. Under a strict liability claim, a plaintiff need only show that:

  • The product was defective when it left the manufacturer’s control;
  • The product was used as intended; and
  • The product defect was responsible for the injury that resulted from the accident.

If these requirements are all met, a manufacturer or distributor can be held liable for a personal injury or wrongful death claim stemming from an aircraft accident.

Injuries sustained in aircraft accidents are especially devastating due to the size of the planes as well as the speeds and heights at which they travel. If you or a loved one suffered an injury in an aircraft accident, please contact one of our experienced Santa Maria personal injury lawyers at the offices of Steven P. Roberts for an initial consultation.


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