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All About Plane Crashes: Catastrophic Injuries and Wrongful Death

Updated: Nov 14, 2022

The Devastating Outcome Of Plan Crashes In California And What Can Be Done About Them


Following a plane crash, the airline and its insurance providers would try to get you to sign agreements and settle claims as soon as possible. They are unconcerned about your well-being. Instead, they want to keep their earnings and reputation safe by avoiding lawsuits. You should not agree to a settlement without first consulting a California Personal Injury Attorney.


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Air travel is not only faster than road or rail travel, but it is also the safest. While aviation accidents are uncommon, when they do happen, they often result in severe injuries and, in the worst-case scenario, death. In addition, smaller planes are more prone to crashes compared to large or commercial flights. Airplane crash claims are challenging to navigate.

Although the accident location is important, the location of your lawsuit substantially impacts the amount of compensation you receive for your injuries. You can file a lawsuit in U.S. court if you are injured in an airplane accident involving a domestic carrier. If the plane disaster occurred outside of the United States, you might be able to pursue legal action under international accords.


Catastrophic Injuries: A Definition


Pilots and passengers are the most common victims of plane crashes. However, there are other victims on occasion. If you work for an airline, attend an airshow as a spectator, or go about your daily activities near a crashing plane, you may be injured in an airplane disaster. You will likely suffer catastrophic, life-altering injuries inside or outside the plane.


Even if your injuries are small or manageable, they are nevertheless disturbances in your life that entitle you to full compensation if someone else's negligence or misconduct caused them. However, when injuries are so severe that they are best defined as "catastrophic," the pain, loss of bodily functions, mental stress, and impossibly enormous medical bills can overwhelm you.


In these cases, the injured party almost has no choice but to file a personal injury lawsuit to recover damages. However, even if your harm is severe and even permanent, the legal battle will not be easy. In fact, the large sums of money such injuries entitle you to make at-fault parties and insurance companies even more eager not to pay a fair settlement, regardless of how clear the negligence caused your injury is.

Catastrophic Personal Injuries: Common Types


Shattered bones, ruptured discs, amputation of limbs or other body parts, severely torn muscles and ligaments, and various degrees/kinds of paralysis are only a few of the conceivable personal injuries. Car accidents, big-rig accidents, motorcycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, slip-and-fall mishaps, workplace injuries, watercraft accidents, injuries caused by defective or unsafe items, and more are all common causes of catastrophic injuries.


However, we'd like to concentrate on five of the most common forms of catastrophic injuries that occur in Los Angeles and throughout California. Consider one of our prescreened California Lawyers in your California Attorney Search.


Injuries from Burns


Unsafe working conditions and improper storage or disposal of hazardous chemicals can result in serious burn injuries. Most burn injuries might have been avoided, but they happened because of people's or companies' careless conduct or inaction. Defective vehicle parts or other products can also result in painful, scarring burns.


Burns of the third degree or worse can cover huge areas of the victim's body, and no region of the body is safe from a potentially fatal burn. The intense agony is simply the beginning of the problems that serious burns create immediately and later. They can also cause deadly infections, internal organ failure, and limitations in limb movement. Reconstructive surgery is frequently required to fix facial or other deformities.


A severe burn can result in exorbitant medical costs, with first care alone costing hundreds of thousands of dollars. Furthermore, many effects of severe burns do not manifest themselves for years.

Injuries to the brain


Every year in the United States, an estimated 100,000 major brain injuries or incidences of major brain trauma occur. However, it's difficult to estimate the actual number because many people with brain injuries don't realize it for months or years, and some never learn that brain trauma is the source of their ongoing bad symptoms.


That's why, following a car accident, a slip and fall incident, a sports concussion, or any other event in which the head is struck or pushed abruptly forward/backward, it's critical to receive a comprehensive medical examination. You should also keep track of your symptoms and return for a second exam if you believe something is amiss.

TBI (traumatic brain injury) is one of the most serious types of brain injury, and it's all too common among those who play contact sports and have many concussions. TBI affects roughly 1.5 million Americans, leaving 80,000 permanently crippled and claiming the lives of 50,000 people each year.

When your skull is suddenly smacked against a hard surface, a catastrophic brain injury can occur in one of two ways. The brain collides with the skull's hard ridges or the skull's bone fractures at spots. Blood arteries may burst in either case, allowing blood to stream into areas of the brain where it isn't supposed to be. Depending on which brain regions are affected, this bleeding can disrupt respiration, heart function, and more. The power of the blow might potentially tear or bruise some parts of your brain.


Injury to the spinal cord


Spinal cord injury is a serious concern when your neck or back is struck in a car accident, an unintentional fall, or when heavy lifting or repetitive motions at work stress these areas of your body. Automobile accidents cause four-ninths of spinal cord injuries, two-ninths from falls, another two-ninths from violent crimes, and the rest from diving mishaps, other sports accidents, and other causes. Construction workers, in particular, are at significant risk of spinal cord injury.


The most painful aspect of surviving a spinal cord injury, aside from the agony and limitations it causes, is knowing that your spine's damaged core nerves can never regrow or mend themselves. There are cases of temporary paralysis, but whether you will ever recover depends more on the damage's extent than the type of treatment. As a result, there is no cure for this type of injury.

Damage to the spine, which is a key component of the body's central nervous system, prevents communication and sensation between the brain and other areas of the body. As a result, spinal degeneration can cause a slew of additional concerns, including cardiac, digestive, and urinary tract difficulties, as well as psychiatric disorders, respiratory troubles, and more.

Many people with spinal cord injuries become partially or completely paralyzed, either permanently or temporarily. A spinal cord injury can stop your work, leave you bedridden or confined to a wheelchair for most of the day, and make it tough to overcome depression and maintain regular familial and social relationships. On the other side, significant technological advancements have occurred in the previous half-century, making it simpler to live a full and active life despite your impairment.

Brachial Plexus


The phrase "brachial plexus" refers to the state of injured nerves in the arms, shoulders, and chest. It's similar to spinal cord trauma in that it affects the signals that travel from your spine to your upper body. It is, however, a distinct catastrophic injury in and of itself.


The nerves in your upper body can be severely damaged if they are squeezed, ripped, pushed out of place, or stretched, resulting in painful, debilitating symptoms. Those who play football or other contact sports frequently refer to lesser kinds of brachial plexus as "stingers." The brachial plexus nerves can also be injured during childbirth. This condition can also be caused by inflammations, tumors, radiation treatment, or vehicle accident injuries.


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In the worst-case situation, an arm could be paralyzed or lose all sensation. In most cases, just one arm is afflicted. Other signs and symptoms include weak or non-functional muscles in your arms, shoulders, or hands, severe discomfort in your neck and other places, and stiffness in your joints.


Most people recover from the brachial plexus, but some have long-term disabilities. During the healing process, nerves in your arms and shoulders will rebuild slowly, and muscles may degenerate due to lack of use. Nerve and/or muscle grafts may be beneficial but are costly and unpleasant procedures.


Vision Loss Following a Trauma


Vision loss is common among those who have had a big traumatic incident in their lives. Vision loss can be whole or partial, and it can be temporary or permanent. It usually happens when a patient is unconscious, but it can also happen when you are awake.


The most prevalent cause of eyesight loss is significant head trauma. Due to high degrees of discomfort and disorientation, people are sometimes unaware of how their eyesight has changed until they are tested and questioned. The exterior appearance of the eye and its motions will be observed during an eye exam.


Blurred vision, sensitivity to light and glare, difficulties reading, a limited attention span, memory lapses, seeing double, eyes that ache, severe headaches when reading or gazing at a computer screen for an extended period of time, loss of focus and visual field, and trouble making regular eye movements are all symptoms of post-traumatic vision loss.

Prism lenses, eye rehab therapy, and light treatment are all non-surgical options for correcting or treating post-traumatic vision loss. Eye muscle surgery may be performed in some circumstances, but surgery is rarely the solution because vision issues are usually caused by damage or stress to the brain.

Airplane Accidents Pose Difficult Legal Issues


Airplane accident claims are complicated because they entail many state and federal restrictions, making it more difficult for you to obtain compensation. For example, the Montreal Convention of 1999 established a liability scheme that benefited victims and reduced their litigation time. It is not necessary to prove the carrier's wilful disregard to receive reimbursement under the terms of the agreement. Instead, the airline faces a maximum liability of $100,000 in damages.


Many other entities, in addition to carriers, could be held accountable for the accident. Typically, airplane accident suits involve multiple parties sharing culpability, which may result in a bigger settlement. Aerial accident lawsuits also necessitate lengthy investigations and oversight from several organizations. As a result, it necessitates a thorough understanding of all applicable state and federal legislation.

  • The FAA is in charge of enforcing aviation regulations. The department also oversees the production, operation, and repair of all types of aircraft in the United States.

  • The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) examines all airline crashes and recommends modifications to aircraft safety protocols.

  • Accidents involving airplanes may be subject to state legislation as well.


The Laws of Negligence in California


When deciding personal injury claims in California, the state employs a "comparative negligence" methodology. Even if you are somewhat at fault, you can seek damages from the defendant under this system. You have the right to recover the portion of your loss for which the defendant is responsible, even if your share of fault is greater than 50%. For example, if the court judges your damages are $1,000,000.00, the jury concludes that you are 70% at fault. You have a right to $300,000 (30%) in damages from the defendant. The jury has sole authority in determining the percentage share of fault. As a result, it's a good idea to hire a California Personal Injury Attorney who has handled catastrophic injury cases before.


Any firm or airline that charges you to fly on its plane is considered a common carrier under California law. As a result, it owes you a responsibility of care and attention to ensure your safety. This is a higher standard than ordinary negligence and extends to the entire voyage, including boarding and disembarking from the plane. If you are a non-paying passenger on a flight for which you would otherwise pay a fee, the private firm or airline owes you a duty of due diligence and ordinary care, even if it does not owe you a duty of extreme caution.


The requirement of extreme caution extends to the airplane's maintenance and operation. The aircraft maintenance task is not delegable, even when an independent contractor maintains the planes on behalf of the airline. By contracting an outside contractor, the airline will not be able to dodge responsibilities for airplane maintenance. As a result, the airline is still liable for the contractor's mistakes.

Defending Your Claim in an Airplane Accident


It might be extremely difficult to obtain genuine evidence from an airplane crash scene. Typically, there is no survivor to give an account of the accident, and the plane is so badly damaged that FAA investigators have difficulty determining the cause. Fortunately, a legal doctrine known as "res ipsa loquitur" can assist you in winning your case. It protects you when determining the specific cause of an aviation crash is difficult or impossible.

If your case fulfills the following criteria, the "res ipsa loquitur" principle presumes negligence:

  • Typically, such an accident does not occur without someone's negligence.

  • The defendant has complete control over the instrumentality or agency that caused the injury or accident.

  • Your voluntary contribution or behavior did not cause harm or an accident.

There is a presumption of negligence in practically all aviation lawsuits, excluding those filed by pilots or co-pilots. If another party, other than the pilot or their company, is at fault, you can sue for damages as a pilot or flight attendant. You cannot sue your employer, but if you can prove the supplier or maker of the airplane was negligent, you can launch a claim against them.

Establishing a violation of a regulation or statute can assist you in proving your case in some situations. As a result of these transgressions, there is a presumption of negligence, and the burden of proof is shifted. The defendant must demonstrate that they were not careless. When the aim of the regulation was not to protect everyone from the type of injury you sustained, however, breaking it does not result in a presumption of carelessness.

Identifying Liability in Plane Crashes


No one is always to blame when an aviation crash occurs, such as when the tragedy was caused by bad weather. In most circumstances, however, many persons are likely to be held responsible for the accident. A thorough investigation is required to ascertain the exact reason for the crash and, by extension, the at-fault party. The following are the most common causes of plane crashes:

  • the weather

  • Incompetence or pilot error

  • Errors by air traffic controllers and ground handling difficulties

  • Error in the machinery

  • Defects in manufacturing or design

  • Protocol and safety requirements are lax.

  • Terrorists' sabotage

Although determining the cause of an airplane disaster is challenging, it is crucial since there are so many potential defendants in a case. They are as follows:

  • The airport

  • The company that operates the airline

  • The pilot

  • Officers in charge of air traffic

  • The manufacturer of the plane

  • The maintenance company

Regardless of the reason, you are entitled to compensation for your financial, bodily, and emotional losses. The judge or jury will determine culpability and assign blame to all persons involved. The court could give you 100 percent of your damages if the defendant was 100 percent at fault.


On the other hand, the defendant may argue that your negligence led to the accident. They must prove both of these statements to win the case:

  • That you were negligent

  • That your negligence contributed significantly to your injuries.

If the court agrees, the percentage of your fault will be deducted from your damages. The entire amount of culpability assigned to all parties must be 100 percent.


The jury will determine your total damages on its own. Your California Personal Injury Attorney can also negotiate a settlement on your behalf outside of court. The amount of damages is unaffected by your share of the fault. Following the court's determination of your overall losses, each defendant will owe you an amount proportionate to their percentage of fault.

The Statute of Limitations


The time limit for filing a lawsuit is called a statute of limitations. You will lose your right to recover damages if you do not file your case within that time frame. For the sake of fundamental fairness, statutes of limitations exist. Witnesses move, memories fade, and evidence vanishes with time. Statutes of limitations encourage you to bring your lawsuit as soon as feasible, and they shield defendants from the uncertainty of potential claims for prior accidents.


A personal injury lawsuit in California has a two-year statute of limitations. It begins when you are aware of, or reasonably should have been aware of, the injury. The statute of limitations begins to run from the time you learn about the harm in some cases, such as traumatic brain injury, where the harm accumulates over time, and you only learn about it afterward. However, you have six months from the date of your accident to initiate a claim against government entities or their employees.

What Should You Do If You Get Hurt in an Airplane Accident?


The aftermath of an airplane crash is usually chaotic, and even skilled specialists frequently fail to get things right immediately. Your safety should always come first. It would be ideal if you received medical attention as soon as feasible as well. It is crucial to gather essential information in preparation for your claim once a medical practitioner has cleared you. You ought to:

  • Make a list of everything you can remember about the accident.

  • Take pictures or videos of your injuries and the incident yourself, or have someone else do it for you.

  • Keep a record and documentation of your post-accident status and every medical treatment you receive.

  • If there are any other victims or witnesses, get their contact information.

  • Before speaking with your California Personal Injury Attorney, make sure you don't speak with any insurance companies or airline attorneys.

Damages You Can Recover After a Plane Crash


Catastrophic injuries will almost certainly result in unexpected costs for the rest of your life. As a result, you'll need a settlement covering your expenses. If you are injured catastrophically in an airline accident, you may be entitled to compensation for three types of losses:

Economic Losses


This is the monetary value of the expenses you have incurred or expect to incur due to the injury. They are as follows:

  • Current and projected medical expenses include all tests, MRIs, X-rays, drugs, operations, and post-operative care.

  • Physical or occupational therapy

  • Psychological therapy

  • Long-term or short-term care

  • Income lost

  • Loss of earning potential

  • Legal fees, hotel stays, and transportation expenditures are examples of out-of-pocket expenses.

To determine medical expenses, the court relies on the evidence of doctors and other healthcare professionals. Often, an industry expert or an economist will determine the loss of future wages.

Non-monetary Losses


These are damages that do not have a monetary value attached to them. They are as follows:

  • Pain and suffering

  • Loss of pleasure in life

  • A life care plan

The most substantial of all your damages is usually pain and suffering, which includes mental discomfort. No professional can precisely assess your pain and suffering, and no formula can do so. It depends on where you file your claim, the severity of the event, and how well you show your difficulties in each case.


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Punitive Damages


These damages are frequently awarded to the defendant as a penalty to dissuade them from repeating the conduct that caused the accident. In most cases involving a huge organization, such as an airline, you will only be awarded punitive damages. The court might give you punitive damages against an individual or a small business if the defendant's actions were particularly heinous, malicious, or purposeful.

The Montreal Convention and Limitations on Airline Liability


The Montreal Convention, signed in 1999, specifies carriers' responsibilities and liabilities in the event of injuries on international flights. The convention was a step forward from the Warsaw Convention of 1929 and the Hague Protocol of 1955. Air carriers that operate international flights are liable for injuries you receive as a passenger due to an accident that occurs while onboard, entering, or exiting the plane, according to the 1929 Warsaw Convention convention.

The Montreal Convention is a single, worldwide treaty that governs airline liability around the globe. It imposes considerable limitations on damages and liability for carriers on foreign flights. These restrictions impact your ability to file a compensation claim.

Airlines that signed the Montreal Agreement took full responsibility for injuries you may suffer on overseas flights that stop or depart from the United States. Accepting "absolute liability" waives all airline arguments but also limits your total damage recovery to $75,000.

The $75,000 restriction applies to foreign flights with a "stop or point of departure in the United States." Domestic flights are not covered by absolute liability or the $75,000 damage threshold. Only claims against airlines that have joined the Montreal Agreement are subject to absolute responsibility and damage limitations. Petitioners suing airplane manufacturers or suppliers, as well as airlines that are not parties to the agreement, are not covered. In addition, the Department of Transportation suggested a rule allowing airlines to waive the $75,000 cap, and several airlines have agreed.


The $75,000 damage cap does not apply if you can prove willful misconduct. Regarding international flight cases, one of the most important questions is whether the airline's actions are considered "willful wrongdoing." Because judges and jurors acknowledge the injustice of the $75,000 cap on compensation for victims of international plane crashes, they appear to be eager to find a justification to consider the airline's behavior intentional.

You cannot obtain damages for mental distress if there is no accompanying physical injury, but you can obtain damages for bodily injury alone. You can only be compensated for emotional anguish resulting from physical injury, not for emotional anguish that occurs on its own.


You can only recoup financial losses for the loss of a loved one if a plane crashes on the high seas. You can't sue for mental suffering, lack of care, or societal loss.

What Is a Lawsuit for Wrongful Death?

If it is determined that a wrongful death occurred, the family of the deceased person may claim for damages under California's Code of Civil Procedure 377.60 (CCP 377.60). The individual who is being sued is referred to as the "defendant," and the relative who is filing the lawsuit is referred to as the "plaintiff." The person who has died is often referred to as the "decedent" in California legal parlance.

Plaintiffs have the legal right to sue the defendant if they are proven to be responsible for the decedent's death, according to CCP 377.60. Damages are the monetary recompense that may be owed to the plaintiff. As the plaintiff, it is critical that you seek skilled legal counsel to pursue a legal claim for these damages. Furthermore, because this is a civil proceeding, you and your legal team bear the burden of proving that the defendant's conduct, or lack thereof, caused the death of your loved one.


Negligence, reckless behavior, and/or intentional conduct are all factors in wrongful death suits. These indicate the defendant's various levels of responsibility, which will result in varying sums of damages. Negligence is the most common cause of wrongful death, and most wrongful death claims will argue that the defendant was criminally negligent.

The Types of Damages for Wrongful Death


In wrongful death litigation, damages may be awarded for both "economic" and "non-economic" losses (sometimes known as "compensatory damages"). They are meant to compensate the heirs of the deceased for the lost worth of support they would have gotten from the decedent had they not died. It is critical that the plaintiff hires legal counsel to guarantee that they receive the maximum amount of compensation feasible.


These damages can only be recovered for a certain amount of time. It is either the decedent's projected life expectancy at the period of the wrongful death or the plaintiff's projected life expectancy at the time of the wrongful contract, whichever is shorter. A civil court jury will establish the length of this life expectancy. The presiding court will instruct them to consider all of the numerous contributing variables, such as the decedent's or plaintiff's lifestyle, health, and/or occupation.


Furthermore, California law is a little hazy regarding the number of damages the plaintiff may seek. The CCP 377.60 simply stipulates that plaintiffs shall be able to recover "just" damages based on the facts of the wrongful death case. As a result, the range of possible damages is extremely broad. As a result, you should have an experienced legal team handle every part of your wrongful death litigation, enhancing your chances of winning a large settlement.


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