Pilot error has been found to be the leading cause of several airplane crashes in 2013. This article appearing in Reuters (http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-09-06/recent-u-s-air-crashes-highlight-leading-cause-of-deaths.html) discusses the issue of noncompliant pilots creating the greatest risk to passenger and public safety.
Airline pilots undergo rigorous training, often for many years, long before they qualify to fly as commercial pilots. The industry and occupation are also heavily regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in conjunction with the U.S. National Transit Safety Board (NTSB) to ensure the public’s safety while traveling.
Why then, after so much regulation and ongoing mandatory training, would pilots still choose to disregard basic safety rules about approach to the runway and safe landing?
The article above describes the practice of pilots ignoring the rule to disengage or abort a landing if the approach to the runway was too low or too slow.
“Almost all pilots, or 97 percent, continued to land in spite of the rules that they climb away from the runway and circle around to try again, according to the research,” states the article’s author.
So which is the standard if someone is injured due to a pilot’s decision to continue landing despite the warnings not to? Is it the written rule or the common practice of that rule?
A personal injury attorney uses the facts and rules of the situation, along with the conclusions found by the NTSB, to assess whether a risky pilot decision goes beyond negligence and rises to recklessness.
In personal injury law, the theories under which a party may recover damages include intentional acts, negligence of the actor who breaches his duty of care, and strict liability defined by statute. The standard of recklessness is only measured after the court accepts the plaintiff’s theory for liability. During the damages phase, the court may weigh evidence showing the recklessness of the defendant.
These damages are considered punitive, as they are intended to deter to the defendant from ever acting in a similar manner again.
These damages are not typically available to compensate the plaintiff, and in Alaska, the state receives seventy-five percent of any punitive damages award. The ultimate award is capped at $500,000 or at three times the compensatory damages.
An airline that is aware of and continually allows its pilots to ignore safety precautions during landing could expose itself to punitive damages for recklessness. If you believe you have been injured due to the negligent acts of an airline, speak to a personal injury attorney about your rights and options.