Who’s Liable for Injuries and Death When Airplane Equipment Fails?

When airplane equipment fails the consequences can be catastrophic and injured passengers or surviving family members can seek compensation from airlines, manufacturers, and subcontractors involved with inspections and maintenance. There are millions of components on modern airplanes and all it takes is one failure to cause a fatality or death. Components can fail for any number of reasons including excessive wear and tear, improper maintenance, and poor design.

Deadly Airplane Engine Failures

Airplane engines are designed to withstand enormous stresses and pressure. However, this does not mean that they are not prone to failure. There have been numerous incidents where fan blades within the engine have suffered catastrophic failures caused by metal fatigue. As seen with United Flight 232 which crashed in Sioux City in 1989 and the most recent failure on Southwest Flight 1380, blade failures can have serious consequences. In both cases, these failures were “uncontained.” When the blades failed, shrapnel was able to blow through the engine housing causing damage to critical systems, and in the case of Southwest 1380, penetrate the passenger cabin. This particular failure caused severe, and ultimately lethal, blunt force trauma to passenger Jennifer Riordan.

Equipment Failures

Passengers depend on seat belts, oxygen masks, and similar components to keep them safe while aboard an aircraft. Seatbelt failures can cause passengers to suffer injuries ranging from concussions and contusions to broken bones. Likewise, it is not uncommon for overhead bins to “shake open” in flight and in the process cause heavy bags and luggage to fall atop passengers. In many cases, these components fail due to improper installation, lack of maintenance, and/or poor design. When this happens, the airline, contractors hired to service the aircraft, or those responsible for designing and manufacturing the component may be liable for the personal injuries or wrongful deaths that result from their negligence.

International Flights

Numerous international flights take off from Chicago every day. These flights are governed by the Warsaw Convention. Should an injury or fatality occur on an international flight, passengers may be limited in the compensation a personal injury lawyer can recover. Under the Warsaw Convention, that limit is $75,000.