International Aviation Lawyers with the Experience and Knowledge to Be Your Best Advocate
In 2016, a record number of Americans traveled overseas. The global increase in demand for air travel, combined with the movement to access hard-to-reach locations using smaller types of aircraft, means that if something goes wrong, more passengers are at risk of being in a plane crash or accident with tragic consequences. Whether your transatlantic flight originates or ends in the United States, or if an incident occurs while your aircraft is in international waters, a different set of laws and regulations applies.
Depending on where you are, carriers and operators may also operate under fewer pilot qualifications and lower training standards, putting travelers at an increased risk of being in an accident. Although aviation cases are extremely complex, requiring a skilled analysis of causation, liability, and jurisdictional issues, only the most experienced international aviation lawyers can evaluate all applicable regulations to determine where and how to try your case to secure the best possible compensation for your losses.
Slack Davis Sanger international aviation attorneys have the experience, knowledge, and resources to apply principles of international law for a crash or accident that occurs anywhere outside the United States. Our team has an excellent track record in litigating dozens of cases in other countries, including Australia, the Bahamas, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, France, Guatemala, Haiti, Jamaica, Kenya, Mexico, New Zealand, Nigeria, Peru, South Africa, Spain, Ukraine, and Venezuela.
Accomplished International Aviation Attorneys Who Will Fight for What You Deserve
Although flying is a relatively safe mode of transport, in the event of an accident or crash, the effects can be devastating for the victims and their families. When traveling internationally, passengers may not realize that less stringent pilot training and aircraft maintenance standards may apply, which could put you at a higher risk for a life-altering injury — or even death. Even more troubling is the fact that although fatality rates may be decreasing, regulatory agencies do not keep track of what may be a rising number of near-misses as overall demand for air travel is on the rise. For example, a recent study found that over 95% of pilots concede that they have landed an airplane when conditions dictate they shouldn’t have.
Our attorneys, working with local co-counsel, have successfully represented clients in a number of challenging cases in the following types of incidents in international locations:
Commercial Airplane Crashes and Accidents
In just the first three months of 2018, more than 177 people perished in commercial plane crashes in Russia, Iran, and Nepal, losses that stand in sharp contrast to a overall downward trend in fatalities. When handling a commercial airline crash involving a crash site outside the U.S. with passengers from multiple countries, our aviation attorneys’ knowledge of the various international laws that govern injuries, wrongful death and survivor actions in aircraft litigation enables Slack Davis Sanger, where appropriate, to file suit in jurisdictions most advantageous to our clients. When cases are brought against the airline or other major corporations, airline accident lawyers must battle strong, well-funded defense teams. Our firm’s extensive experience with aviation law and regulations can be a welcome relief to families of passengers killed in international air crashes, as well as to passengers fortunate enough to survive.
Private Plane Crashes and Accidents
Some plane crashes overseas involve passengers taking smaller planes to reach tourist destinations, such as the Costa Rican airplane that went down in the mountains in late 2017, resulting in the deaths of 10 Americans and two crew members. In these types of cases, pilot inexperience, the safety record of the charter company, and the age and maintenance performed on the plane could all be factors that contributed to a catastrophic accident. The challenges of proving causation can be complex, yet, by applying their wealth of experience, the international airplane crash lawyers at Slack Davis Sanger can pursue all available legal options to best represent victims and their loved ones in their pursuit of justice.
Helicopter Crashes and Accidents
Helicopters crash for many of the same reasons that planes do, including pilot error, mechanical failures, or a lack of fuel. Unlike a passenger jet, which can stay in the air with one functioning engine, a helicopter with a malfunctioning rotor, rotor shaft, main gearbox, or tail rotor will fall out of the sky, putting the lives of the passengers, crew, and individuals on the ground in peril. In addition, airplane regulators require redundancy in components that are critical to flight operations, whereas helicopters have no corresponding safety measures. Whether it’s an international tour helicopter, air ambulance, medical helicopter, or offshore helicopter crash, the lawyers at Slack Davis Sanger can advocate for your interests.
International Agreements and Institutions Governing Aviation Cases
One of the reasons that international crash cases require specialized knowledge is that a separate set of rules and institutions apply in these situations. The team at Slack Davis Sanger is well-versed in the nuances of how these accords and organizations operate, and how to best pursue a legal strategy to achieve the most auspicious outcome on behalf of our clients and their loved ones.
Montreal Convention: Rules Governing International Flights
The Montreal Convention (sometimes referred to as MC99) is the main international treaty that governs airline liability if passengers are injured or killed in an accident. Adopted by 68% of the members of the International Civil Aviation Organization, the agreement is a combination of the original Warsaw Convention of 1929, the Hague Protocol, the Montreal Protocols 3 and 4, the Guatemala City Protocol, and the Guadalajara Supplementary Convention of 1961. It provides a uniform, two-tier liability system that references monetary compensation in terms of “special drawing rights” with equivalency to currency systems worldwide.
The Montreal Convention gives passengers much broader protection when injured on international flights. Under the Montreal Convention, a carrier is liable without proof of fault in the event of death or bodily injury of a passenger caused by an accident on board the aircraft or in the course of any of the operations of embarking or disembarking. If any part of a passenger’s itinerary has an international component, the Montreal Convention will apply to the entire trip. For example, if a passenger is traveling from McAllen, Texas, to London, England, with a stop in Dallas-Fort Worth, and an accident occurs on the domestic McAllen-to-Dallas-Fort Worth portion of the flight, the Montreal Convention would apply due to the intended itinerary’s international destination.
Under the Warsaw Convention, there were instances in which a passenger could not bring a case in his or her home domicile. To correct this, the Montreal Convention adds a fifth jurisdiction, to allow plaintiffs to bring their claims in the country of their principal and permanent residence at the time of the accident. The practical application of this provision is important when dealing with itineraries involving multiple carriers and when the accident occurs in a foreign country. This provision is subject to some restrictions, however, including the requirement that the carrier must operate passenger service and conduct business in the country of the passenger’s residence.
The Montreal Convention has limitations but also some benefits for passengers seeking compensation for their losses. Most passengers and their families are unaware of the applicability of the Montreal Convention and how to navigate getting fair compensation from the airline. The experienced aviation attorneys at Slack Davis Sanger have handled cases for both airplane crashes and non-crash cases involving international flights and passenger injuries under the Montreal Convention. Our attorneys know, understand, and have even taught other attorneys about the Montreal Convention, which may apply to passengers injured on international flights or domestic legs of international itineraries.
Death on the High Seas Act
Originally enacted to compensate victims of shipwrecks and other disasters in international waters, the Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA) enabled widows to recover damages for their husbands’ future earnings. The law was very restrictive, and compensation relied on the salvage of the vessel — which meant, no salvage, no compensation.
Today’s DOHSA is less restrictive, but still applies to accidents on the high seas of U.S., state, or territorial waters. Over the years, airlines have pushed to apply this law to air crash litigation when the crash was at sea, since non-financial damages, such as loss of consortium, survivor’s grief, and any pre-death pain and suffering of a decedent, were not recoverable under DOHSA.
Under the most recent modifications to DOHSA, if a commercial aviation accident occurs within 12 nautical miles from shore, then DOHSA will not apply. Instead, the rules applicable under federal, state, and other appropriate jurisdictions apply.
The amended DOHSA also allows for the recovery of non-pecuniary damages for wrongful death, which is defined as the loss of care, comfort, and companionship. It does not allow for the recovery of pain and suffering prior to death or for the recovery of punitive damages.
For all aviation accidents beyond the 12-mile definition, DOHSA still applies, yet, under the new DOHSA, certain non-economic damages may be recoverable in some cases.
No matter what type of international airplane accident occurs, or which laws and regulations apply, attorneys at Slack Davis Sanger have the experience, training, and skill to seek advantageous resolution for our clients.