Attorneys Who Fight Tirelessly for Victims of International Aviation Accidents

Attorneys Ladd Sanger and Mike SlackBy 2030, 1.8 billion people will be traveling internationally. This staggering increase in demand for air travel, combined with more flights to hard-to-reach locations using smaller types of aircraft, means that if something goes wrong, more travelers 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 over international waters, a different set of laws and regulations applies. These factors make these types of personal injury and wrongful death cases extremely complex, making it extremely important to engage an international aviation attorney like the professionals at Slack Davis Sanger to handle your case.

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Risks of International Travel

Depending on your destination, carriers and operators may operate under regulations requiring fewer pilot qualifications and lower training standards, putting travelers at an increased risk of being in a serious accident. Regulations that exist may not be enforced, and investigations after these tragedies may be insufficient or flawed. Visitors traveling to remote areas may be more likely to take smaller planes to their destinations which are more vulnerable to flying dangers, and these airstrips may not be maintained to the degree to which we see in large U.S. cities.

Aviation cases abroad 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.

The international aviation attorneys at Slack Davis Sanger have the experience, knowledge, and resources to apply principles of international law for a crash or accident that occurs anywhere outside the United States. With multiple licensed pilots and a former NASA aerospace engineer on our team, we have a thorough understanding of what training is required of pilots and what maintenance is required for aircraft, as well as requirements for the air travel companies themselves.

Our team has litigated dozens of personal injury and wrongful death aviation 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.

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Causes of International Aviation Accidents

According to the International Air Transport Association, the most common causes of overseas accidents in 2018 were because of:

  • Loss of control in-flight, such as from an engine stalling or poor weather conditions
  • Improper takeoff, also known as “runway incursion”
  • Controlled flight into terrain which occurs when a pilot is unfamiliar with the terrain and accidentally flies the aircraft into a mountainside or another obstacle
  • Ground damage, which includes improper maintenance to an aircraft
  • Gear collapse, also called a belly landing, when the plane’s gears do not become fully extended before landing
  • Tail strike, or when the tail of the plane hits another object or the ground
  • Hard landing which can happen due to poor weather conditions or when a pilot loses control of the plane

According to this safety report, the most common countermeasures that were not taken that could have prevented these avoidable accidents included adequate crew performance, cross-checking, and correct in-flight decision making. Victims of these crashes and their families need a strong advocate for their interests to help determine the best next steps after one of these tragedies.

commercial plane taking offTypes of International Aviation Disasters

The aftermath of an airplane accident 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 regulatory agencies do not keep track of what may be a rising number of near-misses as the overall demand for air travel increases. 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 international locations, including commercial accidents, private plane accidents, and helicopter accidents.

Commercial Airplane Crashes and Accidents

In just the first three months of 2018, more than 177 people lost their lives in commercial plane crashes in Russia, Iran, and Nepal. In October of 2018 and March of 2019, two Boeing 737 Max 8 crashes resulted in 346 fatalities. Countless others have been seriously injured in other overseas crashes in recent years.

When handling a commercial airline crash outside the U.S. with passengers from multiple countries, knowledge of the various international laws that govern injuries, wrongful death, and survivor actions in aircraft litigation is essential. The international aviation attorneys at Slack Davis Sanger use extensive understanding of these regulations 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 who have survived but are facing a long road ahead with life-altering injuries.

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 ten Americans and two crew members. In these types of cases, pilot inexperience, the safety record of the charter company, the age of the aircraft, and maintenance performed on the plane could all be factors that contributed to this 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, and 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, charter helicopter, or offshore helicopter crash, the lawyers at Slack Davis Sanger can advocate for your interests if you or a family member was a victim in an international accident or crash.

flight at sunsetThe Role of Automation in Airplane Crashes

Commercial airplanes have become increasingly advanced in recent years, giving pilots the ability to allow computer systems to handle most of the technical parts of flying for the majority of the time in the air. While these features were built to make flying safer, many pilots lack the knowledge or training to properly fly a plane when an unexpected problem arises.

The two recent Boeing 737 Max 8 accidents that occurred within five months of each other were found to be caused by a failure in automation. Boeing manufacturers created this plane with a larger engine than previous aircraft. Research found that a bigger engine could cause the plane’s nose to tip upward, which could lead to a stall. To counteract this, Boeing added the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) software to its flight control software. However, Boeing failed to properly notify or train pilots on this new system. To make matters worse, this system malfunctioned, resulting in it being activated when it was not necessary. In these two tragic crashes, the plane’s nose was pushed down by the MCAS, and the pilots were not able to counteract the system in time to keep the plane in the air.

Being licensed pilots themselves, our team of attorneys understand how and why mistakes can play a role in these types of cases and can use this knowledge to bring victims and their families justice when formidable opponents are on the other side of the table.

International Agreements and Institutions Governing Aviation Cases

One of the reasons that international plane crash cases require such specialized knowledge is that a separate set of rules and regulations apply in these situations. The team at Slack Davis Sanger is well-versed in the nuances of how these accords operate and how to best pursue a legal strategy to achieve the most auspicious outcome on behalf of our clients and their loved ones.

man carrying passport and plane ticketMontreal 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 while on an international flight. 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 Montreal Convention, you are required to file your lawsuit within two years of the accident.

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.

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.

Slack Davis Sanger: Advocates for Change

While there will always be a risk when taking an international flight, there are steps that can be taken to improve safety regulations in international travel. When you have Slack Davis Sanger on your team, we will fight not only for the justice and compensation you deserve, but we will also fight for reform in the industry. With our deep knowledge of international aviation law, we are properly equipped to fight for necessary changes to protect Americans traveling overseas.

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  • "The whole staff at Slack Davis Sanger went above and beyond to make sure that we not only got the best settlement and verdict, but that we were aware, knowledgeable, and comfortable with all that went on before, during, and after the trial. They have the best staff — “the A team” — that anyone could ask for. They all worked hard together and still had compassion for us. They are the team you want in your foxhole."

    Leon Hagerman

  • "Slack Davis Sanger came highly recommended to me by a colleague. From my first meeting with Mike Davis, I knew my sisters and I had made the right choice. Emotionally, dealing with the situation was difficult for us. Slack Davis Sanger managed all of the details and people day-to-day, involving us only when necessary. This law firm delivered — and more."

    Kyle Smith

  • "I found the Slack Davis Sanger legal team very professional and competent. The attorneys and staff took the time to make me feel comfortable with all the proceedings. I would highly recommend the Slack Davis Sanger team and would not hesitate to use them again."


  • "I am still amazed at how, through this difficult legal process, Mike Slack and his team consistently maintained a diligent direction to resolve this case in our best interest. We experienced an extraordinary sense of grace and humanity as we struggled through this tragedy. These are truly extraordinary people with extraordinary ability."

    Victor McLerran

  • "A disaster affecting the lives of many families led to our relationship with the Slack Davis Sanger team. While we never could be compensated fully for our loss, the team at Slack Davis Sanger removed much of the burden associated with dealing with the courts and corporate attorneys, allowing us to devote more of our attention to dealing with the very real burden of personal loss associated with losing loved ones to tragedy. They actively listened to what was important to us and crafted a legal strategy designed to meet our goals."

    Victor McLerran

  • "I would like to thank all of your team, who I felt went above and beyond to take care of us and to be great listeners, even when I’d fall apart on the phone speaking about my father. I would highly recommend you and your firm to anyone in a similar situation, and I would be happy to speak to any prospective clients to provide a verbal reference."

    Theresa M.

  • "Slack Davis Sanger represents the ultimate in professionalism combined with a true caring attitude."

    Colonel Ray Toler

  • "When we got into this I had no idea what to expect. You have all been honest and supportive through this whole process. This whole time I have felt like someone was on our side. That is not something we get very often. I can only hope that if someday you need something from me...I can deliver like you all have for us. If you ever need a reference, no one could explain it like me. We love the fact that your team is still fighting the good fight. I hope you nail those bastards until they have no choice but to fix the problem and make sure it never happens again."

    Kathleen C.

  • "I first met Mike Slack when I mediated a case involving a plane crash in which Mike represented the plaintiff. I was very impressed with his knowledge, preparation, and approach. More than a year later, I asked Mike to investigate a matter for a family member of mine. He handled the investigation with skill, tenacity, and care. I think Mike is a terrific lawyer."

    Paul Bardacke

  • "I am still amazed at how, through this difficult legal process, Mike Slack and his team consistently maintained a diligent direction to resolve this case in our best interest. We experienced an extraordinary sense of grace and humanity as we struggled through this tragedy. These are truly extraordinary people with extraordinary ability."

    Victor McLerran

  • "It is to your credit to have Ladd Sanger on your team. His intelligence, skill, and hard work were invaluable to our case."

    Peter B.

  • "I cannot say enough good things about the entire staff at Slack Davis Sanger. We contacted Slack Davis Sanger to pursue a wrongful death case. They fought the greatest fight for my kids. They knew the aviation industry and left no stone unturned. Their courtroom strategy and manners are equaled by no other. Thanks for your compassion and helping us through this time."

    Kathy Hagerman

  • "Our firm has worked with the attorneys and staff at Slack Davis Sanger since the firm was formed in 1993. They have assisted our clients with personal injury matters and have served as our co-counsel in planning for our clients’ personal aircraft ownership and operations issues and needs. Our experience and our clients’ experience with Slack Davis Sanger has been outstanding. We recommend the firm highly and always look forward to working with the lawyers and staff there."

    Stephen Saunders

    Saunders, Norval, Nichols & Atkins, L.L.P.
  • "All law firms should operate and handle their clients just as you do!"

    Rebecca F.

  • "I know I speak for my whole family in expressing appreciation for the genuine care and support provided by Slack Davis Sanger during the lengthy process of working through our legal system. They provided frequent personal contact, without prompting, and someone was always available to answer any question or just listen to our comments and concerns. I feel that we were always treated with respect — individually and as a family."

    Larry McLerran

  • "Donna Bowen was very kind and supportive, both personally and professionally, throughout my ordeal."

    Elizabeth A.

  • "On behalf of my siblings and I, we thank you and your team for taking on our case following our father’s passing from a tragic vintage plane crash in Arizona. As you know, we were originally working with another firm and just getting started when a family member referred us, insisting you were the best choice for our situation. With one phone consultation, I knew you were the one who would take care of us. During the time of our first call, I found you to be professional, fair, understanding, and, most of all, you confirmed my instincts on how a settlement would be processed given all the family dynamics and other concerns (i.e., multiple states, multiple claimants, etc.). I immediately felt you would have our backs and best represent our family."

    Theresa M.

  • "Thank you for all of your help with this case. This has been a difficult process and I couldn’t have done it without you."

    Charlotte L.

  • "It was obvious to me, very early in the process, that my family was in need of an advocate that could match the legal resources of the airline involved. Through the recommendation of a family attorney in Austin, I was most fortunate to contact Mike Slack with Slack Davis Sanger LLP. I had not been on the phone with Mike for more than 10 minutes when I knew that this was the man and legal team that would represent my family."

    Victor McLerran

  • "Caring, sincere, genuine, loyal, dependable, reliable, trustworthy, compassionate, extremely knowledgeable, and resourceful. How can I ever thank Mike Slack and his legal assistant enough? They went out of their way — even meeting with us at the hospital or the Ronald McDonald House."

    Carol B.

  • "Thank you again for all of your good help. Since losing Nick, the love of my life, it has been an emotional roller coaster, but I am making progress and standing strong as he would want me to do. Aside from all of the other estate things I have had to attend to, through this law case, your efficient and thoughtful communications have been very kind and helpful. You have performed your job perfectly."

    Sandra T.

  • "During the ultimate mediation process, you demonstrated the confidence, expertise and determination to do what was best for all of us while helping to guide our decisions during what was a very emotional time. While our lives will never be the same without our beloved father, we are grateful for a settlement which allows us to do something positive in our lives while honoring his memory."

    Theresa M.


Why Slack Davis Sanger?

What We Offer

Decades of Experience

Over 25 years of experience investigating, analyzing, settling, and trying international air crash and accident cases in dozens of countries outside the United States.

Skilled Lawyers

Skilled lawyers who can apply the principles of international law to the complex set of aviation regulations to implement a winning strategy for wrongful death and survivor actions.

Aviation Industry Insights

Attorneys who are licensed pilots, along with an aerospace engineer, giving them a unique ability to understand the mechanics of flying and causes of tragic accidents.

Knowledge of Jurisdictions

Keen understanding of how jurisdictional issues apply to foreign locations to secure the best possible outcome on behalf of clients.

24/7 Dedication

Caring legal professionals who balance a relentless pursuit of justice with a compassionate approach to helping clients navigate what can be an emotionally difficult process.

Reputation & Track Record

A reputation for excellence and a track record that is held in high regard by colleagues and opposing counsel.

Frequently Asked Questions

If I was a victim in an overseas plane crash or accident (or if I lost a loved one), how do I know Slack Davis Sanger can take on a case in the country in which the incident occurred?

Are international aviation cases tried in the U.S. or abroad?

What types of damages can be recovered in an international aviation accident?

Who can be held responsible if I lose a loved one in an airplane crash?

What is the statute of limitations for international aviation accidents?

What do the statistics tell us about the most dangerous part of a flight?

What are discounted fee arrangements in commercial airline cases?