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Burke, Schultz, Harman & Jenkinson
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West Virginia Aviation Accident Attorneys

The National Transportation Safety Board investigated around 1,500 aviation accidents and incidents in 2018, several hundred of which involved fatalities. Plane crashes are some of the costliest and deadliest types of accidents, and special laws apply to injury victims and their families trying to recover compensation for the negligence of a pilot, airline or airplane manufacturer. The West Virginia aviation accident attorneys at Burke, Schultz, Harman & Jenkinson have the skills, resources, and tenacity needed to take on airplane owners and manufacturers and recover much-needed compensation after a plane crash. From amateur-built and ultralight craft to, small private planes and international airlines, our Martinsburg lawyers handle aviation accident claims from Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport to Washington Dulles and everywhere in between.

Types of Aviation Accidents and Liability

When aviation accidents happen, there may be many different types of liability and legal theories that must be applied, including negligence, products liability and vicarious liability. Additionally, there may be complex federal statutes that must be interpreted and applied as well. Our aviation accident lawyers understand the importance of distinguishing whether the craft was a commercial carrier or common carrier and the applicability of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations to the craft. We handle all manner of aviation accidents and plane crashes, including accidents caused by any of the following:

  • Pilot error
  • Defects in airplane manufacturing or design
  • Equipment failure
  • Negligent maintenance or repair
  • Failure to fuel properly
  • FAA violations
  • Flight service station error
  • Air traffic controller error

Aircraft Liability Insurance Policies

Typically after a personal injury accident such as a car or truck accident, the damages suffered by the injury victim will be paid by the negligent driver’s liability insurance carrier, either through settlement or judgement in court. The same is true for aviation accidents, and many states require aircraft owners or operators to carry at least certain minimum amounts of liability insurance. For instance, Maryland requires all general aviation aircraft owners to carry liability insurance if they hangar their craft at a state-owned airport and use their aircraft for commercial purposes, which could include renting out or leasing the aircraft, for example. The minimum amount of insurance required is $50,000 for bodily injury per person, $100,000 for bodily injury per accident, and $50,000 for property damage. The Commonwealth of Virginia has similar requirements but requires only $25,000 for property damage instead of $50,000, and this requirement can be met through any approved demonstration of financial responsibility – liability insurance, cash, bond, letter of credit.

West Virginia, however, does not impose any requirement on general aviation aircraft owners or operators to carry any amount of liability insurance. This does not mean the owner will not be insured, however, but there is no legal requirement to do so. Also, while going after an uninsured driver personally is not always worthwhile in a car accident, even uninsured airplane owners are likely to have significant assets or financial resources to pay damages caused by their negligence. At Burke, Schultz, Harman & Jenkinson, our Martinsburg accident lawyers understand how to determine applicable insurance policies and develop the best strategy for getting a full and fair recovery for our clients injured in an airplane crash or any other aviation incident.

Overcoming GARA Defenses of Airplane Manufacturers

When a small plane accident was caused by manufacturing defects, structural or design problems, equipment failure or other causes linked back to the manufacturer of the airplane or one of its component parts, the manufacturer may be able to use the General Aviation Revitalization Act (GARA) as a defense to liability. This law implements a “statute of repose” prohibiting defective product claims involving manufacturers of small private planes and their component parts after more than 18 years from the date of manufacture.

GARA applies to basically any aircraft that can seat less than 20 passengers and has been issued an airworthiness certificate by the FAA, so long as the craft was not engaged in scheduled passenger-carrying operations when the accident occurred. Small plane manufacturers love to hide behind GARA, so it’s important to know when GARA applies and when it doesn’t, including important exceptions to the GARA defense. The GARA defense may not be available in the following circumstances:

  • Material information was knowingly concealed or misrepresented by the manufacturer
  • The trip was related to a medical emergency
  • The injury victim was not on board the aircraft when the accident occurred
  • There was a written warranty in place

Get the Help You Need after an Aviation Accident

If you’ve been injured in an aviation accident or lost a loved one to a tragic plane crash, it’s important to retain qualified attorneys who are knowledgeable about the laws that apply to aviation accident claims and who are skilled and experienced in holding responsible parties fully accountable for their negligence. Contact the Martinsburg personal injury lawyers at Burke, Schultz, Harman & Jenkinson for a no-cost case evaluation at 304-263-0900 or 304-LAWYERS.

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