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Who is liable when a small plane crashes?

On Behalf of | May 31, 2024 | Aviation Accidents

Determining liability for the consequences of a small plane crash is a complex process involving multiple factors and potential parties. When a small plane crashes, various entities may be held responsible, depending on the situation leading to the accident. 

Most obviously, pilot error is a leading cause of small plane crashes. If the investigation reveals that the pilot of a downed plane made a mistake, such as misjudging weather conditions, failing to follow flight protocols or making navigational errors, the pilot can be held liable. In cases where the pilot is deceased, their estate might be responsible for compensating victims.

Other parties that may potentially be held liable

The owner of an aircraft can also be liable for a crash, especially if the accident resulted from inadequate maintenance or failure to comply with safety regulations. 

If a defect in the design or manufacturing of the aircraft contributed to the crash, the manufacturer could be held liable. This includes any faults in the plane’s construction, materials or systems that failed during flight. 

The companies or individuals responsible for maintaining and servicing aircraft can also be potentially liable. If it is found that improper maintenance, inadequate repairs or failure to address known issues led to a crash, the maintenance provider could be held accountable. 

If an air traffic controller provided incorrect instructions, failed to communicate essential information or made an error that contributed to the crash, they or their employer (usually a government agency) could be liable.

Finally, the operator of the airport from which the plane took off or where it was attempting to land could also be liable if the crash was caused as a result of runway issues, poor airport management or failure to provide adequate support and facilities. 

There are only about 350,000 small airplanes registered worldwide, but when any one of them crashes, the consequences can be catastrophic. Regardless of who is to blame, victims of these accidents may benefit from seeking more information about their rights and options.