Skip to main content

Aviation Accidents/Airplane Crashes


Injuries may occur not only to pilots and passengers on airplanes, but also to workers on and around the tarmac and those hit by falling debris.

According to ACRO and Bureau of Aircraft Accident Archives data, there were 399 deaths in 101 aviation incidents in 2017. Most crashes involve privately owned and operated aircraft.

It can be challenging to determine what went wrong in a crash, because there are often no survivors to provide clues. Investigating a case may involve a team of experts, including pilots, aviation designers, metallurgists, mechanics and others to reconstruct what happened.

If you or a loved one has suffered injury or someone has died in an aviation accident, you may be entitled to compensation for your losses. However, due to the complexity and issues involving aviation accidents, your case must be handled correctly and competently, or you may never collect the compensation you are entitled to. Similarly, if you’ve been involved in a road accident, especially a motorcycle crash, consulting a motorcycle accident lawyer can be equally crucial to ensure your rights and interests are protected. 

Our attorneys at Rieders, Travis, Dohrmann, Mowrey, Humphrey & Waters know the courts and the system and what you need to do to win a good settlement. We have been involved in many aviation cases where local individuals have been injured or killed in crashes. These have occurred in the United States and include the tragic Flight 800 cases where students, parents and teachers were killed who were flying from Montoursville, Pennsylvania to France.

We offer a free consultation to discuss the facts of your individual situation, so contact us at our office or online today.

How Aviation Accidents Occur

Aviation accidents may be caused by pilot or other human error, equipment malfunction, defective parts, faulty maintenance, or poorly designed aircraft. Pilot errors occur most frequently during the flight or while taxiing on the runway. Some cases may also involve actions at airports, which may or may not involve federal jurisdiction.

The Federal Aviation Administration  governs activities that include flight operations, aircraft manufacture and pilot activity, and controls air traffic through the Air Traffic Control System, or ATC. According to FAA, the following are among the top causes of fatal accidents:

  • Human misconduct such as negligence.
  • Storms and windshear, which can be strong enough to break an airplane apart.
  • Midair Collisions — Most midair collisions happen near airports, where air traffic is most dense, and sometimes an air traffic controller may have been at fault.
  • Systems or mechanical failure — problems may arise from the aircraft, its equipment or parts due to structural or design problems or improper maintenance or repairs.
  • Fuel exhaustion or contamination.

In recent years, there have also been several terrorist attacks involving aircraft.

Litigation and Unlawful Death

If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of an aviation accident or disaster you may be entitled to recover damages, including:

  1. economic damages, which include compensation for past and future medical, hospital, and rehabilitation expenses, past and future wage loss, and other out-of-pocket expenses;
  2. non-economic damages, including loss of quality of life, emotional distress, pain and suffering; and
  3. physical impairment and disfigurement, which may include compensation for scars or physical disability.

Anyone involved in an aircraft accident may have several types of claims, including:

  • negligence of the pilot
  • negligence of the owner of the aircraft
  • negligent entrustment or negligent hiring, training and supervision
  • claims against the manufacturer, retailer or maintenance crews of any defective or malfunctioning parts on the aircraft
  • negligence with respect to updating and keeping current with the latest technology, both aircraft and aviation specialists such as pilots

When people are killed during aviation accidents, there is often a case for a wrongful death and survival lawsuit if the death was caused by the negligent or reckless actions of another person or entity that failed to act in accordance with commonly accepted standards.  Major airlines and commercial aircraft companies have a heightened professional standard of care under federal regulations and safety standards, and private aviators have to use reasonable care to prevent injury. All pilots have to operate the aircraft with the skill of an ordinary, qualified pilot for that particular aircraft. Maintenance requirements, inspection duties, training requirements, and safety measures for each aircraft may be different.

Not all cases are governed by negligence. There is a significant regulatory structure governing both aircraft, maintenance workers, pilots and even passengers.

Survivors who may be entitled to compensation include spouses, children, parents, and other close family members. In Pennsylvania, there is a two-year statute of limitation from the date of death during which survivors may bring a claim. There are unusual circumstances where the statute of limitations may be tolled based upon the opportunity reasonably to discover the relationship between the misconduct and the harm. There also is a minor’s tolling act which may apply with respect to children.  In some cases, there are international treaties which govern these claims.

Contact an Aviation Accident Attorney at Our Firm

If you or a loved one has been injured or someone has died in an aviation accident, you should get immediate legal assistance to protect your rights at every stage of your liability claim.

The skilled and experienced Pennsylvania aviation accident attorneys at Rieders, Travis, Dohrmann, Mowrey, Humphrey & Waters have spent decades honing their skills and successfully representing Pennsylvania families who have suffered an injury or loss due to someone else’s negligence. We offer personal attention and loyalty to every client, aggressively fighting for their right to compensation. Whether in settlement negotiations or pursuing a favorable trial verdict, we are thoroughly prepared and committed to achieving a just outcome. With our competent staff, we offer strength in numbers while providing top-notch personal service.

Based in Williamsport, we serve clients throughout the state of Pennsylvania, offering a free consultation on all personal injury matters.  Our attorney is also admitted in New York, the District of Columbia, and numerous federal courts.  More than that, we offer you experience, knowledge, compassion, and a long history of results.

Attorney Cliff Rieders

Attorney Cliff RiedersCliff Rieders is a Nationally Board Certified Trial Lawyer practicing personal injury law. A large part of his practice involves multi-district litigation, including cases related to pharmaceuticals, vitamin supplements and medical devices. He is admitted in several state and federal courts, as well as the Supreme Court of the United States. Rieders is the past regional president of the Federal Bar Association and is a life member of the distinguished American Law Institute, which promulgates proposed rules adopted by many state courts. He is a past president of the Pennsylvania Association for Justice, formerly Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association. As a founder of the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority, he served on the Board for 15 years.

Not only has Rieders held many highly esteemed, leadership positions, he authored legislation related to the Patient Safety Authority and the Mcare Act, which governs medical and hospital liability actions in Pennsylvania. He authored texts upon which both practitioners and judges rely, including Pennsylvania Malpractice Laws and Forms, and Financial Responsibility Law Issues in Pennsylvania, the latter governing auto and truck collisions in Pennsylvania. In addition, he wrote several books on the practice of law in Pennsylvania regarding wrongful death and survivor actions, insurance bad faith, legal malpractice claims and worker rights, among others. Rieders also serves as a resource to practitioners as a regular speaker for Celesq, an arm of the world’s largest legal publisher, Thomson Reuters West Publishing.

As recognition of his wide range of contribution to his profession and of his dedication to protecting the rights of his clients, he received numerous awards, among them the George F. Douglas Amicus Curiae Award, the Milton D. Rosenberg Award, the B’nai B’rith Justice Award, and awards of recognition from the Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers. [ Attorney Bio ]