Compassionate Lawyers by Your Side Following a Small or Private Plane Accident

Private Plane Attorneys Ladd Sanger and Mike Slack

Most people associate flying with traveling on a commercial airline. However, more than 90% of the approximately 220,000 registered aircraft in the United States fall into a category called “general aviation.” These smaller types of aircraft hold fewer than 30 passengers and are subject to different regulations than commercial planes. Additionally, in comparison to commercial flights, the rate at which these types of aircraft crash is alarmingly high. If you or a family member were involved in a private or small plane accident, you can trust the small and private plane crash attorneys at Slack Davis Sanger, including Ladd Sanger and Mike Slack, pictured here, to bring you justice. Our aviation lawyers are licensed pilots, as well as experienced litigators who understand the specific issues surrounding private plane regulations and air crashes and have a history of obtaining favorable outcomes in lawsuits for clients.

Types of Private Plane Crashes

There are a variety of reasons why someone may choose to board this type of aircraft, despite the potential risks. Sometimes, taking a private flight is considered a necessity when professionals must conduct business in towns with smaller airports that cannot accommodate larger, commercial airplanes. Other times, people may choose to board a privately owned, wartime aircraft to get a better understanding of history.

Our attorneys bring knowledge and understanding of an aircraft’s history and components to the following types of small and private plane crashes:

Private plane crashes can have a tragic impact and victims and families may file a personal injury or wrongful death claimCharter and Air Tour Crashes

Charter and air tour operators often transport busy executives, travelers, high-profile athletes, musicians, government officials, and celebrities. In most of these cases, pilots might feel tremendous pressure to maintain schedules and fulfill flight commitments, even when unsafe conditions arise. Flying at night in poor weather or piloting an overloaded aircraft are just two errors in judgment among many that can be recipes for disaster.

In May 2019, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) pushed for further safety regulations for charter flights when two accidents occurred near Ketchikan, Alaska within eight days of each other, resulting in eight fatalities. After these tragedies, the NTSB called for business and charter flight operators to implement safety management systems, record and analyze flight data, and ensure that pilots get the proper training to prevent them from accidentally flying into the ground or into the water. While the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has implemented these recommendations for the commercial airline industry, these recommendations have not been implemented for the charter and tour flight industry.

Slack Davis Sanger aviation lawyers are experienced litigators who understand the specific issues surrounding charter and tour regulations and air crashes, and we use our in-depth knowledge to fight for your interests.

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Business Jet Crashes

Some companies transport executives on business jets, because they offer privacy, enhanced security, and an environment that’s more suitable for getting work done. Flights that can’t land at larger airports, due to weather or other reasons, can be diverted to smaller airstrips, which also makes flying on business jets more flexible. However, municipal runways may be in poor condition or can be made out of dirt instead of asphalt, which raises another set of risks for passengers. And although these types of aircraft tend to be operated by professionals and not hobbyists, relaxed rules as compared to commercial airlines increase the risk of a serious crash.

Unfortunately, business jet crashes reached an all-time high for fatalities in 2019, when business jets and turboprops experienced 39 accidents, with 16 of these accidents being fatal. According to preliminary data gathered by Aviation International News, the 77 people who died in 2019 exceeded the previous high of 76 in 2006. Like many airplane crashes, litigating accidents involving business jets requires a unique skillset—one which the lawyers at Slack Davis Sanger possess.

Warbird Crashes

Warbirds are vintage military planes that are now owned by civilians. These historic aircraft may be as much as 70 to 80 years old, with many dating back to just prior to World War II. In a growing number of cities, individuals can pay to take a warbird ride, and these planes are common attractions in local airshows, often on the schedule to showcase military-style maneuvers and other in-air acrobatics. The inherent dangers of flying in a plane with older parts and components, along with the differences in how warbirds are built and fly, mean passengers are at a higher risk of serious injury and even death in a crash. With accomplished attorneys who are also licensed pilots and have experience with these types of cases, Slack Davis Sanger is well-positioned to represent victims and surviving family members in accidents involving warbirds and other specialty aircraft.

International Plane Crashes and Accidents

If flying on a charter or private plane is riskier than taking a commercial flight, one can expect that flying in one of these types of aircraft in another country might also be more dangerous. Pilots in other countries may not be subject to the same requirements as U.S. pilots, and regulations concerning the condition and maintenance of aircraft abroad tend to be less restrictive than those in the U.S. Enforcement of existing laws may also be uneven in other countries, and principles of international law may make proving the cause of an accident less straightforward than in a domestic crash.

Slack Davis Sanger international airplane accident attorneys have extensive experience in a variety of international private plane crash claims, offering clients the legal savvy, technical knowledge, and financial resources to pursue cases against formidable adversaries. As always, our mission is to aggressively seek advantageous resolutions for our clients.

Private plane crash statistics show a pattern of negligence which can support a personal injury or wrongful death claimPrivate Plane Crash Statistics

Private plane crash statistics show that this mode of transportation is dangerous and that despite the increase in accidents year over year, the Federal Aviation Administration is not doing enough to regulate this sector and prevent these tragedies. If you are wondering how many private planes crash in a year, you should know that in 2017, there were 1,233 general aviation accidents and of these accidents, 203 were fatal. The accident rate for general aviation in this year was a shocking 5.67 accidents for every 100,000 hours flown. To put that into perspective, more than 3 crashes occurred, on average, every day that year.

In the following year, the number of general aviation accidents increased to a total of 1,275 accidents with an accident rate of 5.9 accidents for every 100,000 hours flown. In comparison, the accident rate for commercial flight in 2018 was .14 accidents per every 100,000 hours flown. Moreover, 97% of all aviation fatalities in 2018 occurred during general aviation operations. These numbers tell us that private flying is more dangerous than traveling in another type of aircraft.

Since regulations for these types of planes are more lax, these aircraft tend to have more mechanical defects and receive less frequent maintenance. Private planes are often operated by amateur pilots, whereas being a commercial airline pilot is a full-time job. As such, pilots of private planes are sometimes less experienced in maneuvering these complicated machines. Small plane pilots also run out of fuel at a much higher rate than commercial pilots, which can lead to deadly consequences.

According to The National Transportation Safety Board, the most common causes of private plane crashes are:

  • Loss of control
  • System malfunction
  • Abnormal runway contact
  • Insufficient fueling
  • Controlled flight into terrain
  • Collision with an obstacle during takeoff or landing
  • Unintended flight into poor weather conditions
  • Low altitude operations

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The Role of Product Liability and Defective Products in Private Plane Crashes

An investigation by USA TODAY found that defective components and dangerous aircraft designs were to blame for a large number of injuries, crashes, and deaths in small planes. After conducting extensive research, the report concluded that while National Transportation Safety Board officials routinely place responsibility on pilots for accidents, a pattern of equipment problems has been covered up by manufacturers, who have kept using parts proven to be defective for years after a crash. In some cases, companies that produced these faulty parts have refused to issue a recall or only partially recalled a product, and at times have failed to acknowledge the problem at all.

Additionally, aircraft manufacturers are protected by The General Aviation Revitalization Act of 1994, or GARA. This act exempts general aviation aircraft manufacturers of all liability if the components in the aircraft or if the aircraft itself is over 18 years old at the time of the accident. This act was created in response to aircraft manufacturers going bankrupt or nearly bankrupt due to lawsuits filed against them, regardless of whether they were at fault. From 1983 to 1986, Beech Aircraft , now known as Beechcraft, defended itself in 203 different lawsuits, of which the NTSB found that none of these accidents could be attributed to manufacturing or design defects.

Although GARA was meant to prevent senseless lawsuits against aircraft manufacturers, the final copy of the act is a mere three pages long and written with ambiguous language, making it possible for aircraft manufacturers to maneuver their way out of liability. Slack Davis Sanger attorneys draw upon extensive experience in product liability and defective product cases to bring justice to the families whose lives have been forever changed due to a small plane crash.

Private Plane Crash Lawyers With the Experience and Knowledge to Pursue Justice

Representing surviving families in private plane crash cases requires special sensitivity. It also requires the ability to project, document, and recover potential future earnings of the deceased. Complex private plane crashes need strong technical and legal skills due to the many potential theories of liability under state, federal, and international law. This knowledge and deep insight into all facets of the aviation industry enable Slack Davis Sanger airplane accident attorneys, where appropriate, to file suit in jurisdictions most advantageous to our clients.

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  • "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.

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

    Colonel Ray Toler

  • "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.

  • "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

  • "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.
  • "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

  • "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.

  • "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.

  • "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.

  • "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.

  • "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

  • "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 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

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

    Elizabeth A.

  • "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.

  • "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

  • "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.

  • "All law firms should operate and handle their clients just as you do!"

    Rebecca F.


Why Slack Davis Sanger?

What We Offer

Decades of Experience

A long history investigating, analyzing, settling, and trying hundreds of small- and private-plane-crash cases.

Skilled Lawyers

Lawyers with a solid grasp of the complicated set of state, national, and international laws that may apply to your case.

Aviation Industry Insights

With pilots and an aerospace engineer on your side, you can rest assured that our attorneys understand the industry and the nuances associated with litigating your case.

Knowledge of Jurisdictions

A legal strategy based on where to file your case for the best opportunity for a positive outcome.

24/7 Dedication

Our top priority is to move as quickly as possible to get you the biggest settlement, so you or your family can adjust to life in the aftermath of a devastating incident.

Reputation & Track Record

Successful resolution of cases against industry giants, as well as in lawsuits involving charter planes and private plane crashes.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is there any place I can go to find out whether the airline, tour operator or charter operator I am flying with has had any crashes or other problems?

What are some questions I can ask an operator to learn more about how safe my charter plane will be?

If I was a victim in an overseas small 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?

What types of damages can be recovered in an aviation accident involving a small plane or charter?

Who can be held responsible if I lose a loved one in a small plane crash?

What is the statute of limitations for small plane aviation accidents?

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