Who Is Liable for Aircraft Accidents Caused by Pilot Error?

pilot and copilot in the cockpit of a plane on approach to a city
Share this:

Although many different factors may be involved, aircraft accidents caused by pilot error account for the majority of aviation disasters. While a pilot may be directly responsible for the crash, liability is a complex issue in aviation accident litigation.

Multiple parties may ultimately be liable for aircraft accidents caused by pilot error. Thorough and timely investigation by an aviation accident lawyer is essential for identifying all of the parties at fault and holding them accountable.

For a FREE case review, call Patrick Daniel Law at (713) 999-6666 today. Attorney Patrick Daniel represents the victims of aircraft accidents in and around Houston, all of Texas, and nationwide.

Are Pilots Liable for Aircraft Accidents?

Pilots are required to follow strict guidelines from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) when they fly. One of the most important of these regulations are flight time limitations, which govern how long pilots are allowed to fly on a daily, quarterly, bi-annual, and annual basis.

Flight crewmembers must not have more than:

  • 8 hours (if one pilot) or 10 hours (if two pilots) of flight time per day
  • 500 hours of flight time per quarter
  • 800 hours in any two consecutive quarters
  • 1,400 hours in any year

If a pilot violates these limitations and it results in an accident, they may be held liable. Other issues that can lead to aircraft accidents caused by pilot error include:

  • Failure to complete the preflight checklist
  • Flying while under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Failure to make the right decision while piloting an aircraft

It should never be assumed that the pilot is solely to blame for an accident. There are other parties who may also be partly or wholly responsible.

Is the Pilot’s Employer Liable for the Accident?

While the term “pilot error” would seem to indicate that the pilot (and only the pilot) is responsible, this isn’t necessarily the case. Airlines are businesses. They are paid according to how many people or how much cargo they can transport.

As such, airlines (sometimes referred to as carriers) may pressure their pilots to violate the FAA’s flight time limitations, resulting in a pilot error that could cause an accident. If this is determined to be the case, the carrier may also be held liable for the accident.

Carriers may also be responsible if they hire unqualified or underqualified pilots. Airlines have a responsibility to ensure the pilots they hire have the appropriate training, qualifications, and licensure to safely transport passengers or cargo.

Similarly, if a pilot caused an accident because he or she was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, it may point to poor screening practices on the employer’s part. If, for example, a pilot had a history of substance abuse problems but the airline did not review the pilot’s history – or if the employer simply disregarded the results – then the carrier may be held liable for an accident caused by the pilot’s intoxication.

Investigating Aircraft Accidents Caused by Pilot Error

While pilots and their employers are the parties most likely to be responsible for an aviation accident, there are others who could also be held liable. These include:

  • Manufacturers: Parts manufacturers have a duty to properly design and produce aircraft components. Mechanical failures caused by a defective part may be grounds for a lawsuit.
  • Airports: Airport employees have a host of responsibilities for ensuring safe flights, including fueling airplanes and properly loading baggage.
  • Air Traffic Controllers: Air traffic controllers, who are typically employed by the FAA, are relied upon to deliver timely, accurate information that can be critical for ensuring collisions are avoided.

Any of these parties – or even some combination of them – could be held liable for an aviation accident if they fail to uphold their duties. Errors on their part can put the lives of innocent passengers and crew members at risk.

Determining the cause of an aviation accident requires a thorough investigation of the facts. An attorney will review black box data and other evidence, consult with aviation experts, and conduct interviews to get to the root cause of the crash. This is no easy feat, which is why it is of the utmost importance to work with a lawyer who is well-versed in aircraft accident claims.

Aircraft Accident Caused by Pilot Error? Talk to a Lawyer Today

Aviation accident litigation is extremely complicated. Determining liability is just one important part of the equation. It is also crucial to accurately calculate how much your claim is worth and what options you have for recovering compensation.

Patrick Daniel Law can help. Attorney Patrick Daniel is recognized as one of America’s Top 100 High-Stakes Litigators in the field of aviation accidents. Together with our team of consummate professionals, Patrick is committed to maximizing clients’ compensation through settlement or, if necessary, by going to trial.

Aircraft accidents caused by pilot error are not common. It takes experience, knowledge, and resources to perform a thorough investigation, calculate damages, and hold all of the liable parties accountable.

Contact Patrick Daniel Law Today

  • FREE Case Evaluation
    Share your experience and we will get back to you A.S.A.P.
    Share your experience and we will get back to you A.S.A.P. or call (713) 999-6666.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Patrick Daniel's Awards and Recognition