The moment you board an airplane, what runs in your mind is the destination and not possible aircraft accidents. Air transport is one of the safest modes of travel. Reports of aircraft crashes are rare when compared to road accidents.
Reports from the National Highways Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reveal that, in 2015, there were over 30,000 vehicle accidents, which resulted in more than 35,000 deaths. Then again, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) reported that in 2015, there were 27 plane accidents, and out of these, only five were fatal. However, in some instances, plane crashes are catastrophic.
Unlike vehicle accidents, airplane accidents are often catastrophic when they occur. Fatalities, catastrophic injuries, and damage to property in the event of an airplane accident surpass those entailed in a road crash.
Seeking compensation after a catastrophic plane crash is not easy. If you get involved in an airplane crash in California, you want to remain at home to heal and have an attorney present you in court. We invite you to contact us at the Clay County Personal Injury Attorney for legal help in seeking compensation.
What Is a Catastrophic Injury According to Florida Laws?
Florida law, under statute 766.118, states that a catastrophic injury refers to an irreversible impairment resulting from:
- Injuries of the spinal cord. These injuries entail paralysis of the trunk, arms, or legs
- Hands, legs, feet, or arms amputation. Amputation renders these specific appendages unusable
- Severe injuries in the brain or inside the skull. Catastrophic injuries involving the closed-head manifests through motor malfunctions, sensory disturbances, communication difficulties, episodes neurological disorders, cerebral dysfunctions, and many other severe injuries of the head region
- Severe burns, especially those that cover 25% or more on the victims' bodies. Usually, second-degree, third-degree, and fourth-degree burns are catastrophic
- Complete loss of eyesight in one or both eyes
- Injuries of the reproductive organs. The damages must result in bareness or impotence.
What Catastrophic Injuries Common in Airplane Accidents?
Airplane accidents are among the most catastrophic crashes. Unlike a car crash, a plane accident is disastrous as it could cause several deaths and severe injuries.
You have watched in the news, read in the news websites, and even heard over the radio about plane crashes where everyone on board passed on, was burnt beyond recognition, or incurred severe injuries.
According to the National Transportation Safety Board, plane crashes are infrequent, and the survival rates stand at 77 %. Many of the survivors could incur catastrophic injuries like:
Catastrophic Brain Injuries
Each year, many people, among them air travelers, suffer catastrophic brain injuries, also known as traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) following airplane crashes in the US. In 2014, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP) release a report concerning the overall TBI cases in the US. There were around three million people with TBI conditions. A number of these persons died after their TBI conditions worsened.
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke reports that a TBI occurs when harm is caused to a large percentage of the brain tissues.
Brain injuries happen due to an airplane's impact when crashing on the ground, a hill, or in the sea. Blunt of sharp objects in the plane can break and propel at a fast velocity and hit your head. The sharp object flying nearby when the plane explodes or breaks apart could pierce your skull and damage the brain tissues.
How do Catastrophic Brain Injuries Manifest?
Brain injuries are classified under catastrophic injuries if you cannot perform activities you used to do before your airplane crash. There are different ways in which TBIs manifest, they include:
Motor and Sensory Disturbances
The Mayo Clinic states that the airplane crash victims experience difficulties in moving their limbs, delayed sensory response, and remain unaware of their surroundings.
Plane crash victims who experience communication difficulties cannot talk or experience problems with their speech. The part of the brain that controls communication is damaged.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), neurological disorders affect the peripheral and the central nervous system. The system includes the spinal cord, brain, muscles, and myriad nerves.
Victims can also have dementia – they find it hard remembering things. Other victims are known to suffer migraines and strokes.
Catastrophic Genital Trauma
Imagine learning after an airplane accident that you cannot start or expand your family. You would feel the pain and sorrow, mainly if the accident occurred because of another person's mistake.
Trauma incurred could cause irreversible dysfunction of the reproductive organs for women and men alike. Injuries to the testicles in men could cause sterilization or erectile dysfunction. Vaginal, cervical, uterine, and ovarian injuries in women could cause infertility.
A competent airplane accident lawyer could help you, if you suffer injuries of the reproductive organs, get compensation for present and future treatments.
Loss of Eyesight/ Vision
Blindness or loss of eyesight following an airplane accident is possible. You can lose your sight in two ways in an airplane accident. The first cause is a traumatic brain injury, and the second one is projectile-caused.
Speaking of TBI as a cause, your optic nerves can tear as a result of the head hitting parts of the plane during a crash impact. Apart from a closed head injury, you can lose vision from open head injuries. Here, sharp objects flying inside the plane after a crash can penetrate the skull and pierce the part of the brain that controls vision – visual Cortex.
Typically, catastrophic burns are hard to treat, traumatizing, and physically painful. When an airplane goes down, odds are it blows up in flames. Unlike car crashes, plane crashes are intense as the velocity of a plane from the atmosphere to the ground is high.
Again, jet fuel is highly flammable. One tiny spark is all that is needed to ignite jet fuel. When fuel, electronics, and other parts of the plane burn, crash victims can incur injuries of different degrees.
Burn injuries have many categories; thus, not all burn injuries are catastrophic. Below are types of catastrophic burn injuries you could incur in a plane crash:
These burns cause slight injuries and are easy to treat. Burns only occur on the epidermis – the upper layer of the skin, heal fast, and you might not need a doctor for these.
Unlike first-degree burns, second-degree ones entail burning of the skin on top and beneath. The Cleveland Clinic refers to the skin's upper layer as the epidermis and the one below as dermis.
Second-Degrees burns are catastrophic if there is severe scarring or complete burning of the skin layers. Victims feel sharp pain, develop blisters, you can see a complete color change on the skin.
Third-degree burns affect more layers than second-degree injuries. Not only do third-degree burns destroy layers of the skin, but they also damage the fat beneath your surface. Among parts of the skin that get damaged by these burns are the sweat glands (your baby cannot cool off when the external temperatures rise), skin tissues, serum, hair follicle, and oil glands.
Victims who suffer fourth-degree burns face life-changing situations. These catastrophic burns affect the meat and muscles too. When these are burned, the bones get exposed. Imagine your life with bones protruding. Victims undergo emotional turmoil, psychological trauma, and the loved ones incur loss through hefty hospital bills.
Often, victims of fifth-degree burns pass on, but if they survive, they lead a tough life. Here, burn injuries cover over 70% of the body and are irreversible.
The after-effects of catastrophic burn injuries include:
- Permanent External and Internal Injuries
Depending on the extent of damage, many victims of severe burns have to live with injuries forever. While you could opt to undergo cosmetic surgery, you cannot restore your prior looks.
The surgery mainly restores the skin but not the sweat glands or hair follicles. Odds are, with permanent injuries, certain activities that need a lot of energy come to an end.
- Permanent Damage to the Skin
The skin contains a lot of nerve endings and defensive mechanisms. If the skin is damaged from burns, all these elements and functionalities get destroyed. This means that you lose the ability to feel pressure or touch. And, if you do have sensitive left on the skin, the relay of sensations can delay.
Also, infections can happen beneath the skin as your defense system is compromised. And, this is why you want to hire a lawyer with many years’ experience after a plane crash.
- The weakening of the skin
The skin is a self-restorative organ of the body. Then skin has healing properties that help restore its healthy state after suffering burns or scalds.
But if you suffer severe burns on the skin, it weakens to the extent that the skin becomes very sensitive to little heat or the sun.
- Scarring of the Skin
Severe burns leave visible scars on the skin. If the injuries occur on visible parts like the hands or the face, this could affect your self-esteem, marriage, or social relations with others. Also, if your career involves physical looks like high-end fashion, odds are you lose your income.
See, humans have different perceptions about different phenomena. Some victims don't mind visible scars on their bodies, while others could have challenges blending with society.
Reports from WebMD reports that in America, there are approximately 1.8 million amputees. Out of these, airplane crashes are the cause of amputation for a significant ratio of the victims.
The primary cause for limb amputation is irreparable damage to the limbs such as hands, trunk, arms, legs, and feet. The injury causes poor circulation of blood in the blood vessels; thus, the need to amputate the limbs.
In the event of a plane crash, heavy objects – blunt and sharp can fall on your limbs. Blunt objects can make your limbs shatter, and sharp ones can cut off the arms. Severe burns from the plane’s explosion when it crashes can also lead to amputation.
Spinal Cord Injuries
The spinal cord is the primary support system in the human body. If the system or part of it is injured, the victim can become disabled. According to Mayo Clinic, the damage is caused to the spinal cord if the sensory nerve-endings inside the central nervous system (inside the spinal cord).
Just like any other impact, an airplane’s impact after crashing is something to talk about. Imagine the speed at which the plane falls when crashing. The human body cannot handle such immense pressure. Owing to this, you could sustain backbone injuries, broken limbs, or even death. Among these injuries, spinal cord ones are catastrophic and are painful to treat.
Damage to the nervous system causes loss of sensation, and damage to the spinal cord hampers mobility – the movement of limbs.
Severe spinal cord injuries cause permanent damage to victims and could lead to life-long treatment and care. These victims cannot handle heavy tasks, they rely on assistants to maneuver, and many of them lose sources of income.
Hiring a competent personal injury lawyer in Florida ensures that you or your loved one’s life-long needs get catered for, for example, doctor appointments, purchasing of specialized equipment like wheelchairs, and the lost ability to earn income.
Catastrophic spinal cord injuries cause other damages like perforated bladder, loss of bowel-movement control, infertility, impotence, or even severe body pain.
Injuries of the spinal cords are known to cause erectile dysfunction in male victims and vaginal dryness in female ones. It is a painful experience to learn that you cannot bear children because of genital trauma following a plane crash.
What Are the Major Causes of Catastrophic Injuries in Plane Accidents?
Unlike car accidents, airplane crashes are rare. Because of the heavyweight and vast sizes of airplanes, the crashes are catastrophic. Airplane experts say that over 88 percent of the crashes that cause catastrophic injuries are a result of negligence.
The primary cause of a plane crash can take many years to determine. Here are the many causes that, over the years, experts have found to cause plane accidents.
Air Traffic Control Errors
Air traffic controllers offer support to pilots while airborne. This means the controllers manage different planes simultaneously and ensure each flight is visible on the radar. Again, the controllers must look at various factors for each plane, like the level of fuel and weather conditions. A slight mistake from the air traffic control side can cause even multiple plane crashes.
Typically, airplanes are enormous bodies filled with engineering wonders. The thousands of systems under the hoods have different functions, and should any of these become detective while the aircraft is airborne, a catastrophic accident can occur.
Mechanical defects include shoddy repairs and maintenance, worn-out airplane parts, and manufacturing defects.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), pilot error is the primary cause of airplane accidents in the US. Pilot error accounts for more than 50% of these accidents. See, maneuvering an airplane is a challenging task, and one needs to stay as alert as possible.
Think of all the electronics, gauges, meters, adding to the constant communication from the air control department. A slight misjudgment, omission, or miscalculation can cause a catastrophic accident. These accidents cause fatalities and permanent injuries to many victims.
Bad Weather Conditions
Bad weather is not safe for any travel. Driving a vehicle in bad weather is dangerous, and so is flying a plane. Examples of weather conditions that can cause deadly accidents are fog, strong winds, rainstorms, and snowstorms. Other disasters are a result of the aircraft skidding on the runway while taking off or landing.
Types of Airplane Accidents That Cause Catastrophic Injuries
According to the National Transportation Safety Board, air travel is fast becoming the preferred method of transport today. The board projects an increase in air transport by 200 percent in the next two decades.
Several kinds of airplane crashes could cause catastrophic injuries. These include:
Helicopters are more likely to crash in bad weather when compared to commercial aircraft. Thus, passengers who opt to use helicopters are at a higher risk of sustaining catastrophic injuries compared to those who travel by commercial airlines.
Unlike airplanes, helicopters have many moving parts. These are what make the helicopters vulnerable to harsh weather.
Private Plane Accidents
Coming second on the list are commuter aircraft that carry less than 30 passengers. These planes also have higher accident rates compared to commercial carriers. This is because of their lightweight. You must look for a competent lawyer to help you or your loved ones to secure enough compensation after a plane crash.
Commercial Airplane Crashes
Last but not least are the commercial airlines. These types of aircraft hardly get involved in crashes or accidents. They are huge and carry many passengers – usually over 100 of them. If an accident occurs with many people on board, fatalities, and catastrophic injuries occur.
Often, commercial planes are controlled by several agencies like the National Transportation Safety Board, manufacturers, and airline carriers. If an accident occurs, it is challenging to run after these bodies.
If you incur catastrophic injuries, there is no way you could chase after your compensation. An able personal injury lawyer can represent you as you recuperate at home.
Who is Liable for Catastrophic Injuries After a Plane Accident?
The following are the liable parties in airplane accidents:
Just like any other product selling in the market, if it's a detective, the airplane manufacturer subjects themselves to liability for injuries caused after victims used their products. The responsibility involves the theory of strict liability where the manufacture is ordered to compensate for damages and injuries caused regardless of where the plane crashes.
The FAA places commercial airlines under strict scrutiny as the public domain is their significant clientele base. This means that anyone who buys an airplane ticket is allowed to use the common carriers.
If an accident happens, the first fingers are pointed to the specific carrier managing the airplane.
Operator or Owner of the Airplane
Pilots and operators of airplanes, if found guilty of negligence after a plane crash, are held liable for injuries caused to the passengers.
Reckless airplane owners, when operating planes, can easily cause accidents causing catastrophic injuries to persons on board.
If the operator is employed, the employer is held liable for the injuries of the victims. The theory of holding the pilot under employment accountable is called respondeat superior or vicarious liability. Here, the employer is responsible for any harmful actions the employee does in the line of duty.
What Specific Legal Claims Can You Claim?
Florida Tort Claims Act
Under Florida law, victims who incur catastrophic injuries in an aircraft crash can file claims against the state government and airline employees for the commission of torts when under the state’s employment.
The prosecution, before holding the state responsible for its employee mistakes, must prove that:
- The pilot or operator under state government acted negligently; thus, causing the accident
- Financial compensation for your injuries is possible
- The state employee can be held liable individually if not under state employment
The statute of limitations to file your catastrophic injury claims is three years. Afterward, you wait for 180 days for investigations to take place. But for wrongful death claims, you are allowed up to two years.
Federal Tort Claims Act
Victims of airplane accidents can file compensation claims against the federal government and the employed pilots under California law.
When you board an aircraft for travel purposes, you are under the care of the airplane’s operator. If the operator becomes negligent and abandons their duty of care to you, they subject themselves to liabilities for catastrophic injuries in the event of a plane crash.
But for you to receive compensation, you must prove that:
- The aircraft controller abandoned their rightful duty of care
- You incurred catastrophic injuries
- The operator’s negligence caused your injuries
When a manufacturer launches a product to the public, they could subject themselves to strict liability if the product causes damages.
A similar concept applies to aircraft manufacturers. If investigations after an aircraft crash show that the plane had manufacturing defects, the manufacturer is held liable for catastrophic injuries you incur.
Respondeat Superior or Vicarious Liability
Here, the owner of the aircraft is held liable if the pilot’s (employee) mistake causes a catastrophic accident. The employer could be the government or a private investor.
Find a Clay County Personal Injury Attorney Near Me
When you or your loved one incur catastrophic injuries, there is a dire need to hire a personal injury attorney. A lawyer understands the law in Florida better than you. That said, they could argue your case in a manner that will help you get a better result. Also, you need to focus on your recovery at home and attend doctor’s appointments.
Whether it’s a helicopter crash, commercial airliner crash, or a private jet accident that resulted in your catastrophic injuries such as loss of eyesight or paralysis, we are on your side. Our personal injury attorneys in Clay County, Florida, have helped many victims over the years win their injury compensation cases. Contact the Clay County Personal Injury Attorney today at 904-494-8242.