How Aviation Disasters Are Investigated

Our attorneys are skilled in investigating all forms of aviation disasters, including accidents involving commercial airliners, charter aircraft, general private aviation, and helicopters.

View a list of Lieff Cabraser’s successful aviation accident cases

Aircraft crashes are complex and tragic events, and establishing a cause can be a difficult process. Investigation of crashes in the U.S. typically is conducted by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) with assistance from the Federal Aviation Administration and other federal agencies, as well as independent contractors and manufacturer representatives.

Accidents in other countries are investigated by local authorities, often with the assistance of the NTSB. Crashes typically occur due to a number of factors, such as pilot error, faulty aircraft equipment, negligent maintenance, or security breaches. Lieff Cabraser works hard to identify liable parties and to obtain the highest compensation under the law.’

What is a Black Box?

Whenever possible, investigators turn to the aircraft’s flight data recorder (FDR) and cockpit voice recorder (CVR), known as “black boxes,” for answers. These recording devices can provide information about the functioning and movements of the aircraft and cockpit sounds for the period preceding the accident.

Although they are called “black boxes,” the recorders are actually bright orange. They are painted this distinct color and have strips of reflective tape attached to their exterior in order to help investigators locate them following an accident. This is especially helpful when a plane lands in water.

Key Legal Terms

Damages: In a wrongful death action, damages might include economic loss (including loss of guidance, education, training, consortium, etc.), survival damages (for the decedent’s pre-death pain and suffering) and exemplary or punitive damages. In a personal injury case, damages include economic damages (lost earnings, property damages, medical expenses and future damages), general damages, emotional damages, loss of consortium, and punitive or exemplary damages.

Negligence: The failure to act with reasonable care under the circumstances. A negligence claim focuses on the defendant’s conduct, and sufficiently egregious conduct can justify an award of punitive damages.

Product Liability: Many jurisdictions hold manufacturers strictly liable for design defects or manufacturing defects in their products when those defects lead to harm. The conduct of the manufacturer is not considered. This doctrine seeks to ensure that manufacturers strive to produce products that meet consumers expectations and are as safe as reasonably possible.

Wrongful Death Action: A lawsuit brought on behalf of a deceased person’s family or beneficiaries that alleges the death was attributable to the willful or negligent act of another.

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