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Wrongful Death in Aviation Accidents: 4 Key Things to Know

In January 2020, the basketball world was rocked by the news that NBA legend Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash, together with his daughter, his daughter’s teammates, and their families. In 2021, his wife Vanessa and the family members of the other helicopter passengers won a wrongful death lawsuit against the owner/operator of the helicopter.

Apparently, the cause of the crash was pilot error due to “spatial disorientation,” according to a Fox News article.

If you plan to file a wrongful death claim, a lawyer specializing in these cases can walk you through the process and get you familiar with the legal options. This blog discusses four things to keep in mind when you plan to file a claim.

Who Can File a Lawsuit?

When a wrongful death occurs in an aviation accident, the victim’s spouse, legal guardian, a personal estate representative, and next of kin may sue the party responsible for the accident. People in the “danger zone” who experienced emotional trauma from the accident can also file a lawsuit.

How Do You Determine Liability?

Liability depends on the findings of the investigating body. In an aviation accident, the parties potentially liable are the pilots, the airline, the aircraft owner, the aircraft manufacturer, the aircraft parts supplier, the maintenance provider, and the airport operator.

When investigating an aircraft accident, two government agencies play a significant role: the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

The NTSB works as a government investigation agency. It looks into accidents involving any type of mass transportation, such as buses, trains, and airplanes. It aims to determine the “probable cause” of the accident and make recommendations to improve transportation safety.

The FAA provides regulations on how to operate an air traffic control system. It can get involved when a violation of its rules leads to an aviation accident.

So, if one of the parts of the helicopter or airplane was faulty or the aircraft design was not safe for flying, the aircraft manufacturer can be liable. If the pilot was under the influence or negligent of flying conditions, he could be held liable for the accident. A lawyer will help you determine who to sue.

How Will the Victim’s Next of Kin be Compensated?

In a wrongful death case, the victim’s estate may be compensated for losing future earnings, and for medical expenses and funeral expenses. Their next of kin may also be compensated for losing their loved one, losing prospective inheritance, losing companionship, and for the grief, mental anguish, and emotional distress they experienced.

In some jurisdictions, you may be entitled to punitive damage if the conduct that led to the accident was egregious.

What are the Limits of Filing a Case?

The statute of limitations to file a wrongful death lawsuit in California is two years after the victim’s passing. You will lose all rights to recover monetary damage when you file beyond that.

After filing the case, the investigation can be complex and the legal process can take months before reaching a definitive conclusion on the cause of the accident. A final resolution can take up to two years. In the case of Bryant’s helicopter accident, it took more than a year to win the lawsuit.

Hire a Credible Wrongful Death Attorney in Los Angeles

A lawyer experienced in wrongful death cases investigates, collects evidence, and performs legal research to help you win your case. They will represent you in the investigation and court proceedings to ensure you get proper compensation.

Haffner Law has the legal experience to help you and your family secure the right compensation for the wrongful loss of a family member. Our team of lawyers will guide you throughout the process until you reach a successful resolution of your case.

Visit our wrongful death service page to learn about our services, or call us to speak to an attorney.


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