According to the 42 U.S. Code § 3796b, a catastrophic injury refers to an injury that permanently prevents an individual from performing any gainful work. If you suffer a catastrophic injury, the damage can derail your personal life, your career, family, and relationships. If you sustain a catastrophic injury, you will require intensive emergency medical attention and treatment. You may also need rehabilitative treatments and therapy. Other than requiring ongoing medical care, you will also require long-term and permanent assistance after suffering a catastrophic injury. One of the leading causes of catastrophic injuries in California is airplane accidents. If you suffer injuries due to the negligence of another person, The Personal Injury Attorney Law Firm can help you seek compensation.

Overview of Catastrophic Injuries

A catastrophic injury entails suffering a permanent or long-term pain or loss of function of a limb or other body organ. Some of the leading examples of catastrophic injuries include paralysis, spinal cord injuries, and severe disfiguring burns. Other forms of catastrophic injuries include amputations or other loss of a limb, traumatic brain injuries, and chronic organ damage. Brain injuries that cause permanent cognitive impairment, mood imbalance, or physical disability are also forms of catastrophic injuries. Any injury that results in deafness or blindness qualifies as a catastrophic injury. 

There are several causes of catastrophic injuries. Usually, a catastrophic injury happens in an instant and changes your life forever. Typically, catastrophic injuries result from unforeseen circumstances like accidents. The common causes of catastrophic accidents include accidents like airplane accidents, bus accidents, truck accidents, and motorcycle accidents. Catastrophic injuries may also result from workplace accidents, construction accidents, and boating accidents.  A catastrophic injury can be detrimental in many ways. For instance, you would have to endure intensive medical treatment. You may also have to spend many months or even years in a rehabilitative facility. Even with the intensive medical treatment and rehabilitation, you may never be able to go back to your normal bodily functions. Therefore, if you are a victim of a catastrophic injury, you may be eligible for compensation. 

A report issued by the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association revealed that there had been a decrease in airplane accidents in the U.S. There has been a notable decrease in both fixed-wing accidents and fatal crashes.  There has been a significant improvement in small plane safety in the past few decades. However, despite the aviation industry improvements, airplane accidents still occur. The leading causes of airplane accidents include poor maintenance, pilot errors, product defects, and other safety issues. 

Airplane accidents are often complicated, especially in the case of international air accidents. Seeking legal representation can make all the difference in seeking compensation for injuries suffered by you or your loved one. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you seek compensation injuries sustained in an airplane accident irrespective of where in the world the accident occurred. The main objective of a personal injury attorney is to get the truth of what happened and then seek a just and fair compensation for you.  You could seek legal representation in California, even if the airplane accident occurred in another country.

In most cases, your attorney will file a lawsuit against the airline or the airplane manufacturer.  You might sue the airplane manufacturer if the accident resulted from component defects. You might sue the airline company if the accident resulted from poor maintenance of the airplane. 

Main Causes of Airplane Accidents

If you or your loved one suffers injuries in an airplane accident, you will need answers. For instance, you will be wondering about the leading cause of the accident. You will also wonder whether the accident occurred due to negligence and if the negligence would have been prevented. Some of the main factors that cause or contribute to airplane accidents include:

Negligent Maintenance

Before taking flight, pilots have a duty of doing a walk-around and inspecting an aircraft. A pilot must perform a pre-flight inspection. During this inspection, a pilot inspects the control surfaces of an airplane, including ailerons, among other things. The pilot may also check the fuel tank to ensure that there is adequate fuel before taking a flight. The pre-flight inspection procedures may differ depending on the airplane companies. However, pre-flight inspection is a requirement for both commercial and private airplane pilots.  The pre-flight inspection aims to maintain a safe operation of the airplane. This inspection may help a pilot or flight crew to identify damage or poor maintenance that may lead to an accident. 

At times, negligent maintenance may not be the only cause of an airplane accident. There may be some other underlying causes. By knowing all the causes of an airplane accident, you will be able to hold all the responsible parties liable. By holding all the responsible parties accountable, it is easy to seek compensation for your injuries.

Airplane accidents may delay maintenance and routine inspection while striving to meet deadlines and adhere to schedules. However, this negligence may turn fatal in case of an airplane crash.  Failing to conduct a complete inspection at designated intervals may cause a tragic accident in case of component failure when an airplane is in the air.  For a particular type of plane, mechanic certification is necessary. The wrong certification of an airplane may lead to errors in airplane maintenance leading to accidents. Errors are likely to occur in cases where different maintenance companies work on the same plane because it is easy to miss on essential safety checks. 

In most cases, negligent maintenance will only be obvious when an airplane is in the air and in trouble. If it is evident that an airplane accident occurred due to negligent maintenance, victims may sue the airplane maintenance company. 

Defects in Airplane Design

 At times, when making an airplane, the manufacturer may focus on making a profit and compromise on the safety of the airplane.  An airplane manufacturer is aware that a good airplane design is not only safe but also reliable. However, the airplane manufacturer is also aware that coming up with a good airplane design can be quite expensive. Therefore, it is common for manufacturers and other executives to focus on the profits and overlook the safety of an airplane. In most cases, the engineers are not conscious of the fact that making such a decision may put the lives of pilots and passengers at risk.

At times, airplane accidents occur due to an equipment malfunction or failure. Malfunctions may result from defects in an airplane, which mainly results from manufacturer flaw, a design flaw, and wear and tear from using an aircraft. Even though preflight and postflight airplane infections are mandatory, accidents may still occur due to malfunctioning components and faulty equipment.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), every airplane manufacturer must adhere to some minimum standards. However, defective designs often result because the FAA's advisory boards mainly consist of airplane manufacturers' representatives. The representatives avoid putting an extra burden on manufacturers and keep recommendations to a minimum.

When an airplane is in the air and develops a problem, it is often too late to deal with bad product design.  If you suffer catastrophic injuries in an airplane accident due to defects in airplane design, your attorney will work closely with experts to investigate the aircraft disasters. You may file a lawsuit against the airplane manufacturer in case you suffer injuries due to defective airplane design. 

Pilot Error

It is the duty of pilots to transport passengers from one location to the other safely. On some rare occasions, pilots may fail to comply with the proper procedures during the operation of an airplane leading to accidents. There is a likelihood of pilot error for both high-time and low-time pilots. There is an infamous killing zone for pilots, which stands between 50 hours and 350 flight hours. After 50 flight hours of flying experience, a pilot may feel overconfident, while in the real sense, the pilot is still very inexperienced. The likelihood of making an error at this stage is very high. Flying an airplane calls for thorough pre-flight checks, adequate experience, and making an excellent judgment. 

A pilot error may occur if a pilot decides to take a flight despite weather warnings. It is also common for pilots to misinterpret or misread weather information. A fatal airplane accident may occur if a pilot makes a bad landing decision. For instance, a pilot may decide to land even when the visibility is poor. A pilot error may also occur if a pilot operates a type of airplane for which he is not certified to operate.  A pilot may be liable if it is evident that he/she was under the influence of alcohol or any other controlled substance at the time of making the accident. If a pilot decides to put a flight schedule ahead of the routine maintenance, he/she may be liable in case of an accident. 

Human Errors

Other than the pilot, many other people are involved in the safe operation of an airplane. The main players include ground crew, flight attendants, air traffic controllers, and other professionals. All these professionals have a crucial role in the safe operation of an airplane. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires all participants to have the right qualifications. In case of an accident due to the negligence of one or more participants, your attorney may investigate the levels of training each expert possesses. Your attorney may also determine whether all the participants paid proper attention to details. While determining the root cause of an airplane accident, the focus may be on the communication that took place among the air traffic control, ground crew, and the pilot. This analysis will help to determine if an accident resulted due to human error. If human error is the cause of the accident, the responsible persons may be liable.  

Mid-Air Collisions

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) uses a high level of technology for its air control system. The system helps to monitor airliners in the United States. It is a mandatory requirement for all airliners to have TCAS II collision-avoidance systems. These systems are effective and help to detect potential collisions with other aircraft equipped with a transponder. The pilot then receives advice to either dive or climb to avoid collision with another aircraft. However, devices are prone to errors or malfunctions, and in case the TCAS II collision-avoidance systems malfunction, an accident may occur. 

Poor Weather

At times, an airplane accident may occur due to poor weather conditions. For instance, if unpredictable weather conditions like lightning and thunderstorms, gusts of winds, and ice storms may lead to accidents. Weather conditions can affect both large and small airplanes. For example, before flying an airplane in freezing weather, it is important to de-ice the airplane. It is also a requirement to have radar wind-shear detectors. If an airplane accident occurs due to poor weather conditions, a fault may lie on the air traffic controllers for failing to advise the pilot accordingly. Fault may also lie on the pilot in case he/she chose to ignore the signs of poor weather conditions and fly the plane anyway. 

Determining Liability for Catastrophic Injuries in California

According to California law, there may be more than one party liable for a catastrophic injury. For instance, in the case of an airplane accident, liability may lie on the pilot, airplane manufacturer, cabin crew members, and the airplane maintenance company, among others.  With the help of a personal injury attorney, it is easy to determine who is liable or responsible for a catastrophic injury. 

Statute of Limitations for Airplane Accidents Cases in California

Statutes of limitations refer to a law that states the timelines within which you should bring a lawsuit to court. If you fail to file a lawsuit before the deadline, the court may dismiss your injury case without any hearing. There are different types of statutes of limitations for different kinds of lawsuits in California. For instance, if you are filing a lawsuit against the government, you may only have up to six months to make the lawsuit. 

When does the timeline begin? Usually, the timeframe for filing a personal injury lawsuit after suffering injuries in a plane accident starts when the injury or damage occurs. For instance, when you suffer injuries in a plane crash, it is easy to determine when the accident occurred. Anyone involved in a plane accident will be aware of when the accident occurred.

According to the California Code of Civil Procedure §335.1, the statutes of limitations for all injuries to a person, including death is two years from the date of the injury.  However, in the case of damage to personal property, the statute of limitations extends to three years from the time when the damage occurred.  If you suffer injuries in an airplane accident, it is imperative to ensure that you act fast. This will help you to protect your legal rights within the frameworks set by the applicable statutes of limitations. 

Compensation for Catastrophic Injuries in California 

Normal accidents may have little or no long-term effects on your life. However, catastrophic injuries often alter your life completely. A catastrophic injury may also make you incur vast, unexpected expenses.  If you have suffered a catastrophic injury in an airplane accident, you can seek compensation from the liable parties.  Some of the possible compensation includes:

Medical Bills

If you experience a catastrophic injury due to the negligence of another person, the person is responsible for meeting your medical bills.  The person responsible may directly be accountable for the medical bills. Other liable parties may include the defendant's employer or the defendant's insurer.  To get compensation for medical bills incurred, you would have to provide proof of the bills. Therefore, it is imperative to keep copies of your bills intact. You should also provide copies of test results like MRIs and copies of diagnosis to prove that you indeed suffered the said catastrophic injury.  The doctor or the therapist who attends to you should keep notes of all the treatment procedures you undergo concerning the accident.

When you are claiming medical bills, you should consider both the current and future medical bills. If you have suffered a spinal injury, for instance, the treatment may extend into the future. You would need many months of physical therapy to get you back in shape.   Ensure that you project all the rehabilitation and therapy charges you are likely to incur in the future. This will help you to seek adequate compensation for medical bills. 

Pain and Suffering

Pain and suffering are non-economic damages in a personal injury case. Pain and suffering is a subjective loss to which it is not easy to attach an economic value. For you to get compensation for pain and suffering, a physical injury is not necessary. However, it may be much easier to get compensation for pain and suffering after suffering bodily injury, which is an obvious source of pain and suffering. For instance, you are more likely to prove the presence of pain and suffering if your injuries have led to a permanent loss of bodily function or permanent disfigurement.

If you have suffered injuries that are likely to take a long period to recover, you may quickly get compensation for pain and suffering. In most instances, catastrophic injuries are severe and have long term impacts on your life. The associated agony and suffering from the injuries may be unbearable. Therefore, other than seeking compensation for medical expenses, you should also seek compensation for pain and suffering.

You may also seek professional counseling to help ease your pain and suffering. If you have experienced significant subjective symptoms like post-traumatic disorder, depression, and anxiety, you may seek counseling. The presence of a psychologist's report showing that you have suffered the said damages would be effective in proving pain and suffering and helping you seek compensation.

Lost Wages

After suffering a catastrophic injury in an airplane accident, you may no longer be able to go to work or to take part in an income-generating activity. You may be on treatment for a long time, and during this time, you may not be able to do meaningful work and get paid. You can seek compensation for lost wages from the liable party. This is compensation for the income you would have earned if you had not suffered a catastrophic injury in the airplane accident.  When calculating lost wages, the court will consider your regular rate of pay.  The court may request for your employment records or other proof of your earnings in case you are in self-employment. Lost wages include the money lost from the time you suffered the injury to the time when you recover from the injury and go back to work.

Lost Earning Capacity

If you suffer a catastrophic injury in an airplane accident, you may not be able to ever work again in your life. On the other hand, even if you recover and you go back to work, you may not have the capacity to earn the money you used to earn before the accident. It is, therefore, essential to ensure that you seek compensation for lost earning capacity. Several factors may determine the amount of compensation received, including your age and years to retirement.

Loss of Enjoyment of Life  

After suffering a catastrophic injury, you may not be able to enjoy life the same way you used to before suffering the injuries. For instance, you may not be able to take part in your hobbies or other activities that make you happy. You may no longer be able to frequent the social and entertainment joints you used to visit before the accident. You may seek compensation for the enjoyment you have to give up as a result of the catastrophic injuries suffered. 

Other forms of compensation that you may seek after suffering a catastrophic injury include compensation for disfigurement, a life care plan, psychological therapy, and short or long term care. If the liable party was grossly negligent, the court might award you punitive damages on top of the personal injury compensation. 

Contact a Personal Injury Attorney Near Me

You do not have to suffer in silence after you or your loved one suffers a catastrophic injury in an airplane accident. The Personal Injury Attorney Law Firm can help you seek the compensation you deserve. Contact us at 619-625-8707 and speak to one of our attorneys today.