There are two international airports in Chicago—O’Hare and Midway—and several municipal and private airports throughout the region. These airports feature thousands of daily inbound and outbound flights to more than 240 destinations. While air traffic is a common mode of travel worldwide, accidents occur both in the skies and on the runway.
If an aviation accident injured you, finding answers to your questions about your accident and obtaining compensation for your injuries is hard to come by. Let an experienced Chicago aviation accident lawyer from Zayed Law Offices help you understand the Illinois personal injury claims process. They can explain how you can benefit from this process through compensation for your injury’s financial and psychological costs.
Chicago Aviation Accident Guide
About Aviation Accidents
According to the National Safety Council, more than 1,000 aviation accidents happen in the U.S. annually, resulting in hundreds of deaths. These accidents are largely confined to registered civilian aircraft, and commercial aircraft are rarely involved.
More than half of these accidents result from pilot error, including loss of control in flight. Another 17 percent of aircraft accidents result from aircraft mechanical error, and 13 percent result from the weather. While more than 95 percent of people involved in airplane accidents or incidents survive the accident, many suffer injuries.
The highest risk of an aviation accident occurs during the initial descent or the final descent and landing. This part of the flight only accounts for about 4 percent of the total flight. This is when nearly half of all aircraft accidents occur due to the multitude of different tasks being performed at a high rate of speed during a very short period. During landing, the pilot communicates with air traffic control while simultaneously lining up with the proper runway, informing the crew, and racing toward the ground.
Takeoff is another risky time for an aviation accident due to little time for the pilot to react if anything goes wrong. Takeoff for a typical commercial jet only lasts around 35 seconds. If something goes wrong with the landing gear or the engine during this window, the pilot must immediately decide whether to abandon the takeoff or take their chances before the speed they’re moving decides for them.
Does Turbulence Cause Aviation Accidents?
Many people fear turbulence, a chaotic change in pressure or flow velocity responsible for causing a “bumpy ride” for passengers on the plane. This change in air pressure can result from several issues, including atmospheric pressure, jet streams, cold or warm fronts, flying near mountains, or even thunderstorms.
Aircraft are designed to withstand 1.5 times the force on their frames, which means that turbulence is highly unlikely to damage the aircraft or cause it to crash. However, injuries can occur to passengers when unexpected or particularly severe turbulence occurs while they are attempting to walk around the aircraft or are not wearing their seatbelts.
In-flight turbulence is the leading cause of injuries to airline passengers and flight attendants in non-fatal accidents, resulting in injuries to around 58 passengers annually. Turbulence injuries generally occur when the plane is higher than 38,000 feet.
Injuries that Occur While Getting Onto or Off Of a Plane
Takeoff and landing are the most common times for a plane crash. Turbulence is the leading cause of injuries occurring while the plane is cruising. One of the most common times a commercial airline passenger becomes injured is at the gate when attempting to get onto or off the plane. Worldwide statistics indicate that around 27,000 people are injured in ground accidents occurring on airport ramps or during aircraft movement into and out of hangars.
Seeking Compensation After an Aviation Accident
The chances of surviving an aviation accident are high. However, thousands of people are injured when attempting to board or exit a plane or while in flight. Plane accident and incident injuries are typically compensated through the liability insurance of the plane’s owner, the common carrier (an airline that provides transportation for the public for a fee), or the airport operator if the accident occurred at the gate.
The airport’s operator also has liability for other accidents occurring in the facility, such as injuries resulting from a slip-and-fall in the airport bathroom or an escalator or elevator malfunction. In some circumstances, accidents involving a mechanical defect on the plane can also be compensated through the manufacturer of the part or plane.
The personal injury claims process is generally used to obtain compensation for injuries incurred in an aviation accident. Here is a look at the steps of this process.
Hiring an Experienced Chicago Aviation Attorney
An important first step in seeking compensation for the financial and psychological costs of injuries you sustained in an aircraft accident is to speak with an experienced Chicago aviation attorney. The legal team at Zayed Law Offices is happy to evaluate your case for free and explain more about the process and the services we can provide.
When the statement “hire an attorney” is made, one of the most common responses is: “I can’t afford one.”
Zayed Law Offices understands that when faced with an injury’s unexpected expenses and impacts, it is often difficult to justify additional expenses in hiring a professional to help you with your claim. Luckily, the contingent fee billing method that most personal injury lawyers use enables you to obtain the services of an attorney with no upfront investment. You are not required to pay for your attorney until your claim has been successfully resolved through a negotiated settlement or a court award.
Aviation accident claims are complex. The industry is heavily regulated. A lot of evidence needs to be considered in this type of accident, and several other considerations to be made that require experience in this area of the law. An attorney brings this experience to your claim, helping you to avoid getting caught up and overwhelmed by the process.
Plane crashes are generally investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). While this board provides preliminary accident and incident data within ten days of the crash, the full investigation can last for more than a year.
Your attorney will be interested in seeing the official report prepared by the NTSB. This report will offer quite a bit of information about the accident and potentially even some evidence about the cause. The attorney and their legal team will also investigate the accident to determine all liability sources and insurance resources that can be accessed to provide compensation.
Commercial and private airline carriers are required to carry liability insurance coverage of at least $300,000 for any one person injured in an accident or incident, and at least $20,000,000 of bodily injury coverage per accident, or at least $300,000 per person injured times 75 percent of the number of seats on the plane.
Air taxi operators must carry a liability policy that provides at least $75,000 for any one passenger injured and total coverage of at least $75,000 times 75 percent of the passenger seat on the plane. The operators of Chicago airports are also required to maintain business liability insurance that can provide coverage for injuries incurred at the facility. Manufacturers must possess a liability policy that can cover bodily injuries sustained as a result of a defect in the design, manufacture, or labeling of parts used on the airplane.
Valuing Your Claim
Most personal injury attorneys will wait until their client has reached maximum medical improvement before establishing an overall value to the claim. Maximum medical improvement is the point at which the victim’s injuries have stabilized. A physician has determined that they are unlikely to make any additional meaningful progress in their recovery, even if treatments continue. This is one of the best times to value the claim, as it provides a clear picture of the expenses incurred for medical treatment and the permanent disabilities that will likely impair the claimant’s future earning capacity.
A claim’s value is not based solely on the cost of medical expenses and wage loss. Instead, it takes into consideration all expenses that the claimant has incurred as a result of the accident, as well as other factors, including available insurance resources, the severity of the injury, and the potential for lost earning capacity that will impact the claimant throughout their life.
Filing a Claim
Once the claim’s value has been established, your Chicago aviation accident attorney will demand payment of the claim from the at-fault party’s insurer. Upon receiving your demand, the insurer will generally assign the claim to a claims adjuster. The adjuster is a professional hired by the insurance company to protect its bottom line by evaluating claims and determining whether compensation is owed.
It is important to remember that the adjuster works for the insurance company. Their interests are not generally aligned with yours. Their role in your claim is not to ensure that you have enough money to provide a positive and meaningful impact on your recovery but to ensure that the insurance company pays out as little as possible on the claim.
Negotiating a Settlement
After evaluating your claim, the insurer has three options:
- They can accept the liability of their insured and pay your attorney’s demand in full;
- They can deny the claim outright but must provide notification to you, as well as a reason for the denial; OR
- They can accept the insured’s liability but dispute the claim’s value and make an offer to settle the claim out of court for less than its value.
The vast majority of personal injury claims are resolved through settlements. However, the initial settlement offer made by an insurance claims adjuster is generally less than half the claim’s full value. This means the attorney has to negotiate to convince the adjuster to increase their offer.
Filing an Aviation Accident Injury Lawsuit
Suppose the insurance provider fails to compensate the claim. In that case, the claimant has a second opportunity for compensation by filing the claim as a personal injury lawsuit so that the court can decide who was responsible for the accident and how much compensation was owed. Individuals seeking compensation for injuries incurred in an aviation accident have two years from the accident date to file the claim as a lawsuit in court. Failing to file the claim within this period will result in losing the opportunity to use the court process.
Suppose a settlement is not entered into before the date that the trial is scheduled to begin. In that case, your attorney will provide litigation services, including calling expert witnesses and eyewitnesses, presenting evidence, and delivering opening and closing arguments.
Collecting Your Settlement or Award
After the claim, your attorney will help you receive your settlement or award, collect their payment, and satisfy the liens placed by health care providers and insurers on the amount. The remainder of the compensation will be released to you.
Were You Injured in an Aviation Accident in Chicago? We Can Help
Let the experienced Chicago aviation accident lawyer from Zayed Law Offices help you understand more about the process of obtaining compensation for your injury. For your free case evaluation, call us at 855-726-1616 or contact us online.
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