- May 23, 2022
- Attorney Matt Stoddard
- Product Liability
Small airplanes, built for personal or private business use, currently account for a staggering majority of aviation accidents. The rate of crashes and fatalities for commercial airlines doesn’t even come close to comparing with the rate for small, private planes.
The FAA and NTSB are quick to blame small plane crashes on pilot error. However, an independent investigation in 2014 found that many of these accidents are actually traceable to design and manufacturing defects in the most popular small aircraft brands.
To this day, many of the long-standing manufacturers of small planes are still thriving, while small planes remain the most dangerous way to fly.
The Cessna That Crashed Near a Covington Cereal Plant Appears to Have Had Engine Trouble
Last April, a Cessna 340 twin engine crashed into multiple tractor trailers near a General Mills cereal plant in Covington. Contrary to early reports, the plane did not hit the plant directly, and no one on the ground was injured, but the two people on board, a flight instructor and student, were both killed in the crash.
As is so often the case with accidents like these, witnesses on the ground reported signs that the plane was experiencing a technical issue. Specifically, the plane appeared to be struggling to gain altitude, and some witnesses heard what sounded like an engine problem.
If this issue arose spontaneously, under normal use and maintenance, these two deaths could be a product liability issue and the responsibility of Cessna’s parent company, Textron. If maintenance was performed on schedule but done incorrectly, the responsibility could lie with a maintenance company.
Aviation Wrongful Death Suits Should Start Before the Accident Reports Are Finalized
People who are injured or lose loved ones in small plane crashes often feel obligated to wait for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to finish their investigations, before deciding whether to take legal action.
This is understandable, but it’s actually counter-productive, for three reasons:
- Firstly, it’s not a short wait. The NTSB has stated that their final report on the Covington accident will take “several months,” and some investigations have taken years. Over that period of time, much of the original evidence can be lost.
- Secondly, when the official reports are finally published, they rarely cast plane manufacturers in a negative light, regardless of the facts of the case. This is because most of the experts who assist with the investigations work for the manufacturers.
- Thirdly, even a favorable report isn’t necessary, or even particularly useful, for taking action. The NTSB is an advisory organization, and its advice is not legally binding. The FAA has some power but rarely uses it, preferring “voluntary, non-regulatory” methods.
A survivor’s best chance of holding a negligent plane manufacturer accountable for a wrongful death is to collaborate early with a qualified aviation lawyer, who will perform a thorough independent investigation.
Choosing a Lawyer Who Is Also a Pilot Can Be a Great Help
Filing a wrongful death suit against an aircraft manufacturer will almost always involve debunking claims of pilot error. In order to do this, a lawyer must have a strong understanding of what a skilled pilot would or wouldn’t do in a certain situation.
Lawyers are often excellent at gathering specialized knowledge for their cases, but piloting is the kind of skill that can only be acquired through many hours of hands-on experience. For this reason, it can be enormously helpful to hire a lawyer who is also a licensed pilot.
Matt Stoddard, owner of the Stoddard Firm, has the piloting experience, as well as the legal knowledge, to help pilots who have been harmed by faulty aircraft clear their names and get the compensation they deserve.
If you are next-of-kin to the instructor or student lost in the Covington plane crash, or if you have also lost someone to an aviation accident in Georgia, give us a call to learn how we can help.