Smart Luggage Ban Takes Effect In January 2018

smart luggage ban

Smart Luggage Ban

The 2017-2018 holiday travel season has been particularly eventful, and not in a way that travelers would have hoped. A fire shut down the Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson Airport (the world’s busiest) for multiple days, and a so-called “winter hurricane” wreaked havoc along the air routes of the U.S. eastern seaboard.

The hardship will continue for tens of thousands of travelers beginning January 15, 2018, when several of the largest U.S. domestic carriers will begin rejecting so-called “smart luggage” or “smart baggage” unless such bags contain removable batteries. Travelers using smart luggage with batteries that cannot be removed will face the unwelcome choice of abandoning their bag or missing their flight.

Why the Smart Luggage Ban Was Issued

Many “smart baggage” manufacturers foresaw potential travel restrictions and designed their bags to contain removable batteries. Unfortunately, some bag manufacturers did not anticipate such restrictions and failed to incorporate the ability to remove the battery into their design. Travelers of these bags will have spent in excess of $500 per bag for an item that simply cannot be used for its primary purpose: air travel.

To make matters worse, some of these bag manufacturers fraudulently marketed their smart bags as “FAA-compliant” when this was simply not the case. In its public statement, Delta Airlines went out of its way to draw attention to and warn consumers of the falsity of these marketing statements. If you are the owner of smart luggage, we encourage you to research whether or not your bag is on the “banned list” before departing for the airport.

Contact Slack Davis Sanger

If you paid for a piece of “smart baggage” or “smart luggage” and are frustrated that you’re unable to use it for air travel, please contact us for a free consultation.

Oil Rig Dangers: Work-Related Injuries and Safety

Oil Rig Dangers

Despite a rise in alternative energy sources, global demand for oil continues to increase. In the United States alone, over 7.2 billion barrels of petroleum products were consumed in 2016—an average of almost 20 million barrels a day. Almost 40 percent of employers in the oil and gas industry plan to increase their workforce by at least 5 percent over the next year to expand production.

Extracting oil is a dangerous business, whether it’s done onshore or offshore. Oil rig dangers are considerable, because this line of work deals with intense pressure, highly combustible material and heavy equipment.

According to data compiled by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, a worker in the oil and gas industry is six times more likely to die on the job than the average American worker.

When workers are offshore, help is not close by. A fire or another accident can quickly escalate into a tragedy. Thinking back to the almost 200 workers who perished in explosions on the Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 and the Piper Alpha in the North Sea in 1988 remind us how perilous this line of work can be.

When disaster strikes on an oil rig, what are the top reasons people are injured? Could safety measures have reduced the number of victims of these accidents? Let’s take a look at the numbers, some of the more common reasons oilfield workers are at risk and measures companies can take to protect their employees.

How Many Oil and Gas Employees Are Hurt or Injured On the Job?

Oilfield work often appears on lists of the most dangerous professions. As the oil and gas industry boomed from an average of 800 active drilling rigs in the 1990s to approximately 1,300 in the time period from 2003 to 2006, the worker fatality rate increased, with over 400 workers losing their lives on the job. The Centers for Disease Control found that the annual fatality rate climbed to 30.5 per 100,000 workers over those four years alone.

The three states with the most oilfield deaths in 2008 were Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana. From 2004 until 2008, the number of fatalities while working in the oil and gas industry increased by 91 percent in Oklahoma, 21 percent in Texas and 30 percent in Louisiana.

In addition to an alarming high worker death rate in the oil and gas industry, life-altering injuries can also occur. In 2016 alone, at least 20 workers a month were hospitalized or lost a body part while on the job. Oilfield workers can also experience major burns and fractures, among other injuries. The Labor Department speculates that employers under report injuries by as much as 60 percent. The former head of the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) pointed out that a culture of not reporting these incidents in the oil and gas industry is common, so even more workers are probably hurt or injured on the job.

Why Are Oilfields So Dangerous?

Why are so many oil and gas workers injured or killed while on the job? What is it, exactly, that makes working in this industry so dangerous? Most work-related injuries and fatalities are associated with working in an extremely high-pressure environment, with workers spending long periods of time away from home logging long hours in a physically-demanding environment. Part of the pressure comes with the cost of doing business, where just a one-minute delay can cost a company hundreds of dollars.

As a result, we see more human error in this type of work, which can lead to equipment misuse and procedures being implemented unevenly. Ultimately, these errors can jeopardize the safety of the job site. A few reasons oilfield work is particularly risky is that this line of work involves heights, heavy equipment, challenges getting to and from job sites and dangerous materials.

Fall Hazards On Oilfields

Working in an oilfield can be terrifying if you have a fear of heights. A misstep on an offshore outboard walkway at night means almost certain death if a worker falls. Slipping while moving materials on an elevated platform can result in life-changing injuries. From 2003 to 2013, falls increased 2 percent annually in the oil and gas industry. The CDC identified 63 fatal falls while analyzing OSHA data, which represents 15 percent of all fatal events during that same time period. Fifty-two percent of workers fell from a height of more than 30 feet, resulting in catastrophic injuries. Thirty-five percent of falls were from the derrick board, which is the elevated work platform on an oil rig.

The same report showed that most of the fatalities happened when the rigs were being assembled or disassembled at the well site or when drill pipe was inserted or removed from the wellbore. Derrickmen were found to be the most susceptible to falls when they handle pipe from the derrick board.

Dangers Associated With Heavy Equipment

When you work several stories off the ground, as is typical on an oil derrick, dropped equipment can become missiles that can easily maim workers or cause serious injury. A common hazard in both construction and the oil and gas industry, falling equipment caused 22 percent of all oilfield worker fatalities in the time period from 2003 to 2006. For onsite fatalities, the leading cause of death was being struck by, crushed or caught in equipment.

Spinning machinery and support equipment, including cranes and forklifts, are frequently in motion on a job site in the oil and gas industry. These conditions put workers at an increased risk for injury. In addition, the noise level of the working environment makes communication difficult. Six percent of oil worker deaths were attributed to workers being crushed by moving equipment.

Risks Getting To and From Job Sites

Workers typically work 8 to 12 hour days at a stretch of 7 to 14 days at a time, which leads to worker fatigue. This demanding schedule not only slows reaction time while on the job but also when the workday ends. Workers may leave a job site and have a long drive to where they will be staying. Transportation accidents are the leading cause of death among oil and gas extraction workers.

During the oil boom, State Highway 72 in South Texas became one of the state’s deadliest roads. The highway connects the oil towns of Kenedy and Tilden to the Three Rivers Valero refinery. In the first six months of 2014 alone, oil and gas companies filed 24 claims for fatal auto accidents.

In a report from Houston Public Media, Texas Mutual Insurance Vice President for Safety Services Woody Hill said, “We see a high incidence of motor vehicle operators who’ve worked fourteen-hour shifts, driving down the road and falling asleep at the wheel.”

Offshore workers travel to and from rigs on helicopters, which can also pose health and safety risks. In 2016, all 13 passengers died after a helicopter crashed off Norway’s coast. In 2015, a helicopter eturning from an oil rig off the coast of Nigeria crashed, claiming the lives of four oil industry workers. Tragically, 45 offshore oil workers lost their lives in 1986 while traveling on a Chinook helicopter to a platform stationed in the North Sea.

Perils Linked To Oilfield materials

It goes without saying that petroleum is highly combustible, as are some of the chemicals that are used in onshore drilling, such as hydrogen sulfide. A well can explode if too much pressure is allowed to build up inside. The CDC reported that 7 percent of oil and gas extraction worker fatalities from 2003 to 2006 were from fires and an additional 9 percent were from explosions. Electrocution claimed the lives of an additional 5 percent of oilfield workers.

Improved Workplace Safety Can Save Lives

Too many oil and gas workers are losing their lives or dealing with life-changing injuries as a result of a workplace accident. Despite the dangers associated with oil and gas extraction, injuries and deaths in the industry can be reduced with improved safety measures, implementation, training and sharing of best practices.

Improved Safety Measures

Tighter safety requirements, tougher inspections and more oversight of oil operations can help spot potential problems and curb both the number and severity of oilfield accidents. As new technologies become available, more oil rig tasks are being automated, which can move workers away from dangerous equipment and into safer monitoring roles.

Employers can take steps to improve safety by making sure all workers have proper protective equipment and receive adequate training. Companies can go beyond regulations to keep pathways on a oil rig clear of debris to prevent workers from tripping or being struck by an object. Monitoring equipment placed inside of vehicles can give companies more insight about how to make improvements to existing vehicle safety programs.

Better Implementation of Existing Regulations

In many cases, safety measures do exist, but are not followed, or are not followed correctly. In response to the number of industry-related fatal injuries in 2004, the NIOSH created an Oil and Gas Safety and Health program. The agency concluded in a March 2016 report that while the oil and gas extraction industry made progress in reducing the fatality rate, the risk of workers dying is still significantly higher than most other professions. The group recommended that the industry continue efforts to reduce hazards and target high-risk operations and groups of workers within the industry.

The CDC found that fall protection was regulated in 86 percent of fatal falls during this time. Unfortunately, either protection “was not used, was used improperly or the equipment failed.” In 24 of those 63 fatal falls, 15 workers were wearing their safety harness but fell anyway because their harnesses weren’t attached to an anchor point. A verbal check between the driller and the derrickman before drilling operations began might have saved their lives. Taking this step could have reminded the derrickman to connect to the self-retracting lifeline and a restraint system on the derrick board.

Improved Training and Hiring Practices

When it comes to offshore drilling and the desire to dig deeper, inexperience can play a role. LiveScience reported that in the Deepwater Horizon incident, “BP Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles acknowledged that many of his company’s efforts to stop the oil leak failed because they had never had to plug a well at such depths and were therefore unprepared for the conditions that foiled their attempts, including ice formation inside of the original containment dome due to freezing deep water temperatures.” Indeed, the rig broke new ground and was the world’s deepest offshore well before it exploded and sank.

Oilfields are in a state of near-constant motion, with workers coming on and off the job frequently. Employers can make sure that when projects shift, signage is placed in correct areas and that new workers are onboarded with everything they need to know about safety hazards and procedures.

Slack Davis Sanger Has a Proven Record In Oilfield Accident Cases

If you were injured or a loved one was killed while working on an oil rig, you may feel helpless to stand up to a powerful multinational corporation. The lawyers at Slack Davis Sanger have decades of experience seeking just compensation for workers and their families whose lives were forever changed as a result of an oilfield accident. Our experts will combine a deep understanding of the complex set of laws and regulations in the oil and gas industry with compassion for your situation to secure a favorable settlement in your personal injury or wrongful death case.

What Are the Deadliest Highways in Texas?

Deadliest highways in Texas

As one of the biggest states, with more than 685,580 lane miles of highways, Texas holds the unfortunate distinction of being the third deadliest when it comes to highway deaths, after only California and Florida. According to an article in Texas Monthly, 10 percent of the fatal car accidents that occurred in the U.S. in 2015 happened in Texas, with 62 percent of those on our highways and interstates. And, Texas’ four largest cities, which are among the top 10 most populated cities in the United States, are where most of these dangerous stretches of highway are located. The 504-mile span of IH-35 that passes through three of these cities appeared on a list of the deadliest highways in the country in 2010 with 579 fatal accidents.

The Auto Insurance Center analyzed nationwide accident data over a 20-year time span. In the resulting study, two out of the top nine counties for fatalities are located in Texas. In the number four spot is Leon County, which is on the way from Dallas to Houston and is bisected by Interstate 45. The eighth most dangerous county in the United States is Reeves County in West Texas, which contains a section of Interstate 20 and part of I-10.

Crash data from the Texas Department of Transportation shows that in 2016, one person was killed every 2 hours and 20 minutes on Texas roadways. Sadly, one person was injured every 1 minute 59 seconds and one reportable crash occurred every 57 seconds. Perhaps even more alarming is that this brought the fatality rate to 1.44 deaths per hundred million vehicle traveled miles, an increase of 3.59 percent from the previous year.

All of these statistics underscore the risk we take when we get behind the wheel. Tragically, 3,773 people died in car crashes in Texas in 2016 alone, while another 17,582 people sustained serious injuries.

Where do these fatalities occur and why? Let’s take a look at the deadliest highways in Texas and the role we can all play in making our roads safer.

Roadway Fatalities In The Valley

Based on per-mile data on crashes which result in fatalities, the 1.49 miles of Interstate 69C in Edinburg, north of the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley campus, is the deadliest. Twelve fatalities occurred on this South Texas roadway between 2013 and 2015 from seven crashes, which means that 8 people lost their lives per mile.

Interstate 69C is a freeway which runs south to north and begins in Pharr in Hidalgo County, which has a population of about 77,000. Edinburg is the county seat with just over 87,000 residents. The Rio Grande Valley is one of the fastest-growing areas in the United States, with tourism and agribusiness making up its biggest economic sectors.

Car Crashes In Cowtown

The dangerous roads in Texas aren’t limited to the more rural areas. With 14 fatalities on a 1.99 mile stretch of Interstate 30 in Fort Worth, mile point 124 had eight crashes between 2013 and 2015, which means there were 7.05 fatalities per mile. This makes this stretch of road the second deadliest in the state. This highway starts in a rural area west of Fort Worth and heads northeast until it ends in Little Rock, Arkansas.

An accident in April of 2017 on Interstate 30 in Rockwall claimed the life of one Texan when a semi-truck failed to brake, causing a multi-car accident which involved another semi and four cars. Two years earlier and few miles down I-30, five people lost their lives and a dozen more sustained injuries as a result of a collision with an 18-wheeler.

Fort Worth had four segments of highways with 90 fatalities. When combined with deaths in the larger the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex, there were 15 deadly stretches of highway, which accounted for 377 fatalities.

According to an article in The Dallas Morning News, the Dallas/Fort Worth metro has 7.1 million people, which represents an increase of 144,704 residents from July 1, 2014, to July 1, 2015.

Perilous Stretches Of West Texas Roadways

Located in Penwell, approximately 16 miles outside of Odessa, a 2.93 mile stretch of Interstate 20 saw 18 facilities in seven crashes around mile point 151, which averages out to 6.15 fatalities per mile. I-20 is a major Texas thoroughfare which crosses most of the central part of the state, originating in Kent, Texas and ending in Florence, South Carolina. This portion of the interstate is considered the third deadliest in the entire state.

Surprisingly, the Odessa area in West Texas accounted for 82 fatalities in 74 crashes along five deadly stretches of highway totaling 29.6 highway miles. A large contributing factor is the oil boom in the early 2010s that brought many jobs to the area. The 2014-2015 census data shows that the Midland metropolitan had Texas’ highest population growth at 3.3 percent. Some of the roads in the area are narrow and not well-maintained, while unwieldy and large oil tankers, oil and gas equipment and semi-trucks traverse the area’s roadways.

In January 2015, a prison bus crashed while traveling westbound on I-20, resulting in 10 fatalities when it ran off an overpass and collided with a train. Four years earlier, Midland County had a period with one fatal car crash a week and 15 deaths from January until April alone.

Sadly, many of these fatalities may have been preventable. A contributing factor in many of these crashes was that the victims weren’t wearing seatbelts.

Central Texas Highways With High Fatality Rates

Central Texas isn’t immune to these auto fatalities. Interstate 35 at mile point 101 in San Antonio holds the fourth spot in the list of most deadly highways in Texas. With 13 fatalities in nine crashes along a 2.19-mile stretch of highway, this roadway averages 5.94 fatalities per mile.

As a whole, San Antonio has 10 deadly stretches of highway representing a total of 50.6 miles spread all across the city. A good portion of the 176 fatalities resulting from 153 fatal crashes happened along different portions of Interstate 410.

San Antonio is home to almost 1.5 million people. The metropolitan area increased by 51,000 residents between 2014 and 2015.

Accidents On Houston’s Highways Turn Tragic

A 5.42 mile stretch of Texas Highway 288 ranks as the fifth deadliest roadway in the state. Located in Houston along mile point 59, there were 28 crashes resulting in 32 fatalities between 2013 and 2015, which means there were 5.91 fatalities per mile.

The greater Houston area has 17 of the 78 deadly stretches. Anyone who has spent time in Houston won’t be surprised to learn that Houston commuters sat in traffic for 61 hours in 2014 and that the area experienced the single largest population growth of any city in the country with an increase in 159,083 people to bring the city’s total population to 6.6 million. The city’s deadly stretches account for 100.5 miles of the city’s highways, which had 345 fatalities with 316 crashes.

Comparing Auto Deaths By City

We’ve already covered parts of the DFW area, Houston and San Antonio which have perilous stretches of roadways. In addition, Austin holds seven deadly stretches, making up 41.4 miles of its highways. Between 2013 and 2015, the area had 113 crashes, which resulted in 127 fatalities. Fatal crashes in the capital city were fewer than in the state’s other three major metropolitan areas.

Our most populated regions aren’t the only ones with significant deadly stretches of highway. Abbott, Baytown, Bellaire, Bellmead, Colmesneil, Cotulla, Cypress, Duncanville, Edinburg, El Paso, Grand Prairie, Lancaster, Lewisville, Lubbock, Lufkin, Nacogdoches, Odessa, Penwell, Pinehurst, Premont, Sherman, Spring and Wetmore all made the list of cities with the most vehicle fatalities to round out the 78 deadliest stretches.

Wondering if you are more likely to get in a fatal accident in an urban or rural area in Texas? Studies show that 51.47 percent of fatalities in Texas in 2016 occurred in rural areas.

Crash Statistics from Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT)

A few numbers stood out in the 2016 crash data from TxDOT:

  • Texas had zero deathless days in 2016.
  • In 2016, annual vehicle miles traveled was 261.994 billion, which was up from 258.122 billion in 2015, an increase of 1.5 percent. The more we are on the roads, the more likely we are to get into any type of crash, including a serious one.
  • 638 people died in head-on crashes.
  • October was the deadliest month, with 382 fatalities.
  • In motor vehicle crashes, 265,076 people were injured.
  • 496 motorcycle drivers and passengers died in 2016. Of those victims, 53 percent were not wearing helmets.
  • There was a 21.5 percent increase in pedestrian fatalities which represented a total of 678 deaths.
  • Twenty-six percent of the total number of people killed in motor vehicles died as a result of a driver being under the influence of alcohol.
  • More DUI crashes were reported between 2 am and 2:59 am than any other hour, with Saturday being the highest day of the week.
  • In crashes where distracted driving was involved, 455 people were killed. This is a 5 percent decrease from 2015.

Vehicles Involved In Crashes

Passenger cars still make up the largest type of car involved in fatal crashes. Statewide, 1,915 passenger cars were involved in crashes in 2016. The next largest vehicle type is trucks, with 1,452 crashes. SUVs were third highest with 907, followed by motorcycles with 497 and truck-tractor/semi-trailers with 403 deaths.

Other vehicle types included fire trucks, police vehicles, police motorcycles, vans, ambulances, buses, school buses, farm equipment and other, which all were below 200 statewide crashes.

Contributing Factors

In urban areas where officials recorded a cause for the crash, the biggest culprit seemed to be “failed to control speed,” which was the factor in 316 fatal crashes. The second highest contributing factor in 2016 was “failed to drive in single lane” with 291 crashes. A pedestrian’s failure to yield to a vehicle represented 288 fatal crashes that same year. Fourth on the list is driver inattention, which accounted for 180 fatal crashes, followed by speeding, which accounted for 170 fatal crashes.

What You Can Do to Stay Safe

In almost half of the fatalities in Texas in 2016, victims were not wearing a seatbelt. Numerous studies and data show that seatbelts save lives. Just by buckling up, motorists in Texas could keep themselves and their passengers safer.

In addition to that, there are specific things you can do to drive defensively and reduce your chances of getting into an accident:

  • Control your speed. Plan your trips to give yourself enough time to account for traffic. If someone is tailgating, move over and let them pass. Your stress level and sense of peace are not worth proving a point.
  • Pay attention. With so many demands on our time, it’s easy to get distracted by that text, call, radio station, checking email or even the other passengers in your car. The second highest contributing factor to fatal crashes was the failure to drive in your lane. Keep it between the lines. The fourth highest contributing factor was driver inattention. Those texts, calls and emails can wait.
  • Stay safe. Alcohol and medications can play a factor in crashes, as well. Alcohol was a factor in 987 deaths last year. If you’ve had too much to drink, ask a friend to drive you or use one of the many ride-share businesses that are available in Texas.
  • Know your limits. Fatigue played a big role in many of the crashes around Odessa and Midland when workers in the oil and gas industry left the job site after working long shifts. Don’t get behind the wheel if you can’t make the trip safely.
  • Maintain your distance. Understand that just because you’re paying attention to traffic, the driver in front of you might not be. Maintain a proper distance just in case that person suddenly brakes in traffic, slows down for no apparent reason or swerves into the other lane.

Slack Davis Sanger Lawyers Advocate For You In An Auto Accident

The biggest risk we take each day is getting behind the wheel. Our experienced auto and truck accident lawyers have decades of experience working with victims and their families who have suffered life-altering injuries in a car crash. Our compassionate lawyers have decades of experience fighting for just compensation for victims of these tragic events.

Can Turbulence Cause a Plane to Crash?

Can turbulence cause a plane to crash

When you experience turbulence on an airplane, your mind quickly wanders. What’s going on, and how long will it last? Will it get worse? Am I safe? Can turbulence cause a plane to crash? Whatever questions we may have, we can agree on one thing: turbulence puts our nerves on edge.

The Federal Aviation Administration (more commonly known as the FAA) keeps a record of turbulence-related injuries. In 2016, 44 people were injured because of turbulence on a plane, 11 of whom were crew members. In 2015, the numbers were much lower: 21 people were injured,14 of whom were airline staff. If injuries related to turbulence are on the rise, should I be worried?

In 2017 alone, two planes reported injuries as a result of turbulence. On August 5, 2017, American Airlines flight 759 encountered severe turbulence, which sent 10 people to the hospital, according to the New York Post. Although victims did sustain injuries, including a dislocated shoulder, the pilots were able to keep the plane in the air, so thankfully, a crash did not occur. In May, an Aeroflot flight from Moscow to Bangkok ran into a “pocket of clear air,” resulting in injuries to more than 24 passengers. Again, turbulence did not cause the plane to crash.

If you have ever wondered if turbulence can cause a plane crash, the short answer is yes. A more accurate response is that although the disruption in wind patterns can be a contributing factor in an accident, airplanes are complicated machines, so there is often more than one explanation for a crash. To better answer this question, we’ll explore the science behind flight and air flow, the role turbulence plays in plane crashes, myths about turbulence and statistics that will help you better understand this common but relatively misunderstood phenomenon.

What is Turbulence?

We all know that feeling in the pit of our stomach when we hit rough skies when flying. What is turbulence, exactly, and what conditions can make it worse? Passengers feel turbulence when a plane moves through an area where air and wind flows have been disrupted. These “rough patches” can be caused by atmospheric pressure, jet streams, the air that circulates around mountains, weather fronts and storms.

There are five common types of turbulence:

Mechanical Turbulence

Sometimes, mechanical turbulence occurs close to the Earth’s surface when horizontal wind flow is disrupted as air flows over buildings, mountains, hills and other physical features. These unusual air movements can manifest as squalls, which can result in severe turbulence if your plane travels through these eddies.

Mountain wave Turbulence

Found downwind from mountain ridges, mountain waves occur when air currents fluctuate between different altitudes. This type of turbulence can be quite severe and can occur hundreds of miles from a range.

Thermal Turbulence

As the name suggests, thermal turbulence is caused by a temperature imbalance. When a column of warm air rises, a corresponding, slower moving and larger body of air flows downward, which causes irregular air flows.

Frontal Turbulence

Associated with cold fronts and, to a lesser degree, warm fronts, frontal turbulence is caused by the friction between two opposing air masses when weather changes. Fast-moving cold air masses are usually the culprit for the most severe cases of this type of turbulence.

Clear Air Turbulence

Clear air turbulence (CAT) is caused by strong changes in air flows within the jet stream. Wind shear is the technical term for the change in wind direction or speed over a specific horizontal or vertical distance. This type of turbulence can be caused by temperature inversions and along troughs and lows. Clear air turbulence usually occurs above 15,000 feet and is most frequent during winter.

There are various intensities of turbulence, from level 1, which is considered light, to level 4, which is extreme. Passengers on a flight with level 1 turbulence may feel a strain against their seat belts, and items may shift on the plane. Unsecured objects may move within the cabin and passengers won’t be able to walk down the aisle during level 3 turbulence. In rare cases, extreme turbulence can result in the entire aircraft being impossible to control. Planes which have experienced severe turbulence may sustain structural damage and can crash.

How Many Planes Have Gone Down Because of Turbulence?

Turbulence can cause plane crashes, either as the primary reason for an accident or a contributing factor.

According to the FAA, 234 turbulence accidents occurred from 1980 to 2008 resulting in 298 serious injuries and three fatalities. Of those serious injuries, 184 victims were flight attendants and 114 were passengers. Of the three fatalities, two were passengers who were not wearing their seat belts while the fasten seatbelt sign was on. Most turbulence-related accidents occur at or above 30,000 feet and many are linked to passengers not being securely fastened in their seats.

In 1966, a British Overseas Airways plane crashed and the tail fin tore apart after experiencing winds in excess of 140 miles per hour. In 1968, turbulence tore a wing off a Wien Consolidated Airlines flight in Alaska. More recently, in 2009 an Air France flight flew into a storm. In an attempt to steer away from inclement weather, the pilot sent the plane into an aerodynamic stall, which caused the plane to crash. In that tragedy, a combination of turbulence, airspeed sensor malfunction and most likely pilot error all contributed to the crash.

Turbulence Myths

When it comes to turbulence, it can be hard to separate what is fact from what could be simply an urban myth. Let’s explore the most common misconceptions about turbulence and reveal the truth about this unsettling feeling you can experience while in the air.

Myth: You Can always Predict Turbulence

There is no system to predict turbulence 100 percent of the time. However, in many cases, pilots will warn passengers over the public address system that rough skies are ahead. Measures to prevent turbulence start before the plane even leaves the ground.

First, meteorologists and dispatchers plan each flight’s route to avoid any possible air disturbances. Once the plane is in the air, displays in the cockpit indicate any changes in weather that could cause the pilot to alter the flight plan. For example, precipitation can cause shifts in air flows, which can result in turbulence. Pilots can use radar data to avoid developing storms and other weather events. In some cases, readings may show multiple storms ahead and the flight crew may choose an alternate route with the least severe weather. In these cases, flight attendants may ask passengers to return to their seats and put on their seat belts until the plane emerges from the impacted area.

Mountain turbulence can also be predicted in some cases, but clear air turbulence is harder to foresee. Sometimes, pilots who have recently flown through problem areas can warn other planes of potential problems. In other cases, air traffic controllers can relay this information directly to flight crews. Pilots may be able to alter their course or adjust their altitude to avoid the worst of the turbulence.

As we all know, despite all of these sophisticated tools, turbulence still occurs relatively frequently on commercial flights.

Myth: Severe Turbulence Can Tear Apart a Plane

The last major air disaster blamed on turbulence was near Mount Fuji in Japan in 1966. Airplanes are now designed to withstand significantly more turbulence. That explains why, in many cases, although turbulence can cause injuries, these incidents don’t usually result in a plane crash, unless there are other contributing factors.

Although turbulence is often not severe enough to cause a crash on a major airline, smaller aircraft can be more vulnerable to these types of disturbances. Private planes are usually flown by less experienced pilots operating aircraft which are not subject to the same rigorous testing and maintenance requirements as commercial airlines. Helicopter passengers can also face similar risks in bad weather.

MYTH: There’s No Way to Avoid Turbulence

Turbulence is so common that you could easily think there is no way to avoid it. If you want to avoid this unsettling experience during the summer, when passengers typically experience more turbulence, you can choose a flight in the morning when it’s less likely to occur. You can also choose to sit near the wings of a plane where turbulence tends to be less noticeable.

What Really Causes Crashes?

Plane crashes are usually caused by a number of factors. According to a DailyMail article, the top reasons planes crash are pilot error, mechanical failure, weather, sabotage and other forms of human error.

Pilot Error

Pilot error accounts for around 50 percent of all crashes. A recent example in the United States was in 2015 when a Delta plane skidded off the runway at LaGuardia Airport. Thankfully, the incident resulted in no serious injuries, but the pilot used too much reverse thrust on the snowy runway, which caused him to lose control of the plane.

In 2009, an Air France plane crashed after flying through a thunderstorm because of instrument failure. Afterwards, the pilot mistakenly put the aircraft into a rapid climb, which caused the plane to stall. Instead of following normal protocol and lowering the nose, the pilot continued to attempt to ascend. Sadly, all 228 people on the flight perished.

Although there are cases where commercial airline pilots cause a plane to crash, most flight fatalities caused by pilot error occur on private planes.

Mechanical Failure

Mechanical failure accounts for about 20 percent of aircraft losses. As you might expect, the older a plane is, the more likely its parts will fail. On September 30, 2017, an Air France flight made an emergency landing after one of its engines disintegrated. In August of the same year, an AirAsia flight lost power in its left engine. A few months earlier, actress Jennifer Lawrence’s private jet suffered double engine failure. In that same month, a United Airlines flight had to return to O’Hare after its engine caught fire when it struck a bird. Thankfully, in each of these instances, no one was seriously injured.

Obviously, there are many different parts and components that make up a plane. Even during routine maintenance, human error can play a role in the plane’s safety. For example, a technician may install parts incorrectly, parts may be missing or necessary checks may go undone if the aviation maintenance technician’s physical state is compromised. This line of work requires attention to detail and any one of these factors can be an issue, as well as the technician’s capabilities and limitations or even the environmental conditions he or she is working in. When it comes to mechanical failure, many factors can play a role in the safety of an aircraft.

Weather

Weather can cause delayed or canceled flights and accounts for 10 percent of aircraft losses. Pilots go through extensive training to deal with a variety of weather-related situations. Fog reduces visibility, and if it becomes too dense, it can close runways. Some airports, like the one in San Francisco, deal with this issue more than others.

High winds can also cause issues during takeoff and landings. Planes need to maintain a certain speed and an unexpected gust of strong wind can alter optimal flying conditions. New York City’s John F. Kennedy airport is one location in particular that tends to see problems due to inclement weather. Accuweather reported that JFK averages 43,124 weather-related delays each year.

Snow not only reduces visibility, but also it makes runways slippery and impacts the functionality of the plane. How many times have you flown from a snowy region and had to sit at the gate while the plane is de-iced? Chicago’s O’Hare airport experiences 160,000 weather-related delays.

Severe thunderstorms can also bring with them lightning, strong winds and heavy rains, as well as ice. Thanks to these storms, the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport experiences the most weather-related delays, which contribute to its abysmal 72 percent on-time departure rate.

Sabotage

Although this occurs less frequently than we might imagine, hijacking represents 10 percent of aircraft losses. Sabotage rarely results in fatalities, but there are documented cases leading back to 1948. In recent US history, 9/11 is the event that most people remember, when an American Airlines plane and a United flight were flown into the Twin Towers. On that same day, an American flight hit the Pentagon and a United flight crashed to the ground in Pennsylvania. Today’s increased security measures are meant to reduce the opportunity for these occurrences.

How You Can Protect Yourself and Your Family From Turbulence-Related Injuries

Once you learn that turbulence can play a role in airline accidents, your next question is probably how to prevent yourself or someone you love from being involved in a crash or incident. The biggest risk passengers face is falling inside of an aircraft when a plane experiences turbulence, so the best thing you can do to protect yourself is to:

  1. Keep your seatbelt securely fastened when you are in your seat.
  2. Follow the safety guidelines as instructed by the flight crew.
  3. Secure infants in an airline-approved infant carrier in his/her own seat.

Slack Davis Sanger Applies Extensive Aviation Expertise To Represent Victims of Airline Accidents and Crashes

Thankfully, airline safety has improved dramatically over the years. When tragedy does strike, however, you want an someone on your side who understands both how airplanes operate and the complicated set of rules that govern airline travel. The nationally recognized attorneys at Slack Davis Sanger have worked for decades to apply their extensive technical aviation knowledge to successfully represent hundreds of passengers in complex aviation crashes. With a winning track record and compassion for victims and their families, our attorneys have become a leader in this area of law.

What Happens When a Case Goes to Trial?

What happens when a case goes to trial

If you are trying to make a decision about whether or not to file a personal injury lawsuit, you may be wondering about the process. Let’s say you have a lawyer who has agreed to take your case. What happens next? And how likely is it that you will end up in court? Let’s answer some of the most common questions our plaintiffs have about when a case goes to trial.

You might be surprised to learn that, in the United States, of those cases that don’t get dismissed by the court, only four to five percent of personal injury cases go to trial. That means that about 95% of cases are settled out of court. But before we talk about what happens in court, let’s back up and review how your case actually gets to court.

Meeting With An Attorney

Once you think that you may have a claim against a business or individual for causing you harm, you’ll speak with a personal injury lawyer. Many attorneys offer free case evaluations, so that you can determine whether you have a claim that could be successful. When you have your first meeting, you’ll provide information to the lawyer about what led you to want to file a lawsuit and answer a series of questions. The more information you can provide to your attorney, the better he or she will be able to determine the best next steps. In addition to discussing the details surrounding your case, the lawyer will talk to you about practical matters, such as the different expenses and fees and how long they believe it will take to resolve your case. Most, if not all, personal injury lawyers work on a contingent fee basis. That means that you don’t pay for any expenses, including the lawyer’s fees, unless they win your case. If the lawyer agrees to take your case, you’ll sign a representation agreement stating that they will officially be your attorney for this particular case.

Filing Papers and Fact-Finding

At the beginning of a lawsuit, your attorney will file court documents stating the facts that support your claims and who you are suing. In Texas, these documents are called the “original petition.” In addition, your attorney will prepare and file what are known as a “summons,” which is a notice to the defendant about your lawsuit, and “service of process,” which is the procedure by which notice of the lawsuit is actually given to the defendant. The defendant typically has a limited time in which to respond to your original petition. When responding to an original petition, a defendant will usually just file what is known as an “original answer.” In this original answer, the defendant will often just generally deny everything in your original petition until the defendant has a chance to discover more facts about the lawsuit you have filed.

After your original petition is filed, the “discovery” process begins. Discovery is a term used to describe written requests for information from the defendant and any non-parties that may be helpful to your case. Such requests include written questions (interrogatories), requests for production of documents and inspection of premises or land where the injury occurred, and depositions. Depositions are interviews of witnesses, which are documented by a court reporter and involve an attorney asking the witness a series of questions. Interrogatories are written questions submitted to the defendant that are to be answered and sworn to in writing. Both sides must have access to all the documents which relate to the case. The defendant can and will apply these same discovery requests and procedures to you as well.

Resolving Your Case Before Trial

Much of what happens before a case can go to trial is known as “motion practice.” Motions are requests filed by lawyers asking the court to decide an issue relevant to the case. Such decisions are known as “rulings.” Some rulings might even end the lawsuit before it ever goes to trial. For example, the defendant might file a motion to dismiss. A motion to dismiss the case might be filed for:

  • Lack of subject matter jurisdiction (the court doesn’t have the legal authority to rule on your case)
  • Lack of personal jurisdiction (the court doesn’t have legal authority over the defendant because the defendant resides outside of the court’s “jurisdiction”)
  • Improper venue (the lawsuit hasn’t been filed in the correct court)
  • Insufficient service of process (the defendant wasn’t given proper notice of the lawsuit)
  • Failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted (there is no legal remedy for the harm caused you often because either the defendant’s conduct isn’t considered wrongful in the eyes of the law or your harm cannot be actually traced to the defendant’s wrongful conduct)

Once the case is further along in the discovery process, the defendant may also file what is known as a motion for summary judgment. A motion for summary judgment will be granted if the defendant can show that you, as the plaintiff, cannot prove some element of your claim. Typically, in a personal injury lawsuit, a plaintiff must have evidence to support each element of his or her claim. A negligence claim, for example, consists of the following three elements: 1) a wrongful or negligent act or omission on the defendant’s part, 2) a duty owed to the plaintiff by the defendant not to commit that wrongful or negligent act, and 3) a harm to the plaintiff caused by that negligent or wrongful act or omission. If you do not have sufficient evidence to support each and every one of the above elements, then summary judgment could be granted against you and your claim will be permanently denied.

That being said, legal claims are often resolved before trial through a negotiated settlement process. When this happens, the plaintiff agrees not to pursue any further legal action in exchange for a payment from the defendant or insurance company. In many instances, both parties may agree to mediate the case prior to the case going to trial. In a mediation, both parties present evidence that supports their claims while a neutral party—the mediator—tries to get the two sides try to agree on a settlement amount. If the parties do not agree, the case often then proceeds to trial.

When Your Case Goes To Trial

What does going to trial mean, exactly? If you are involved in a personal injury case, a trial provides the opportunity for the plaintiff to argue his or her case so that the judge or jury can examine the evidence, decide what really happened and rule on whether to find the defendant liable or responsible for the plaintiff’s injuries.

Typically, a personal injury trial consists of choosing a jury, opening statements by the lawyers for each side, witness testimony and cross-examination, closing arguments by each side, jury instructions given by the court and deliberation—that is consideration of all the facts and the law that applies—by the jurors. Once the jurors have made their decision, a verdict will be issued by the court.

After jury selection, each side has a chance to make its case in opening statements. The witness testimony and cross-examination stage is the main part of the trial. The plaintiff works to convince the jury that the defendant is liable for the damages or harm caused to the plaintiff. Witnesses and experts are called to testify, in which they take an oath to be truthful and answer questions asked by each side’s attorneys.

Once both sides present their case, closing arguments offer once last chance to convince the jury before their deliberations begin. The judge provides specific instructions to the jury to help them make their decision and then the jurors consider the case as a group. Once the jury has made a decision, the judge announces the verdict.

What Happens After a Trial in Court?

If you win the case, the defendant is often required to pay monetary damages. Ordinarily, an insurance company is involved and payment of your damages should not be a problem, because the insurance company is prepared for this very type of situation. However, in some cases, when the jury or judge awards you damages in your personal injury lawsuit, the losing party may not have insurance or may refuse to pay the judgment amount or follow the court order. In most states, you can locate a person’s sources of income or assets during post-judgment discovery. You may even be able to collect your settlement from the opposing side’s paychecks.

Slack Davis Sanger Can Help You During All Stages of Your Personal Injury Case

Our legal team at Slack Davis Sanger has the experience and skills to guide you through each stage of the process. Whether it’s asking the right questions to gather information to support your side, investigating the defendant to help the judge and jury understand how the defendant could have avoided hurting you if it had just done the right thing, presenting evidence at trial or helping you secure a settlement, our attorneys will be with you every step of the way.