Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How much is my case worth?
This is one of the first questions many clients ask. The honest answer is that it depends. Until a case is developed and the facts and issues are known, no attorney can tell you exactly what a case is worth. And juries can be unpredictable. As your lawyer, we’ll use our vast experience with aviation cases to give you our best estimate or range. We’ll keep you informed as our investigation moves forward, and we’ll do everything in our power to maximize that amount.
Ultimately, the decision whether and what to pay is made by someone else. If we can find a meeting point between what you should reasonably accept and what the other party (or its insurance company) is willing to pay, then the case will settle. If not, the case will be decided by a judge and jury. All clients should be aware that uncertainty is the only certainty when dealing with other people on such matters.
Q: What factors go into the evaluation of what my case is worth?
The range will depend on the answers to some of these questions:
Q: Who was at fault?
One person can cause accidents or they can be caused by the actions of several people, including the victim. Generally speaking, the value of a claim will be higher if the victim was not at fault at all. On the other hand, if the victim was 100% at fault, the claim is probably worthless. How damages are allocated when multiple people are at fault or when the victim was partially at fault varies from state to state.
Q: Did the injured party seek prompt medical attention?
Any delays in going to the doctor help the insurance company argue that there was no injury or that the claimed injury was not very serious.
Q: Was the accident victim a “good patient”?
Patients are expected to follow their doctor’s advice and not miss any appointments. Having unexplained gaps in treatment helps the other side argue that there was no serious injury.
Q: How serious are the injuries?
Did the injuries heal? Do you have any lasting physical limitations? Did you have any broken bones? Surgeries? Is there physical evidence such as MRIs, CT scans or x-rays, which demonstrate damage?
Q: Is there any future medical treatment planned?
Does your doctor or surgeon believe you will need more treatment in the future? What are the estimated costs for such treatment?
Q: Are you completely healed or do you still have ongoing pain, disability or disfigurement?
If you are permanently disabled, then compensation for “future” damages is necessary. Also, scars are lifetime reminders of the tragic accident.
Q: Did you miss work because of your injuries?
If so, this has to be supported by your employer or if you are self-employed by your tax returns.
Q: What impact has the accident had on your life?
Do you have pictures of the injuries (bruises, scars, casts, wheelchairs…)? Did you miss out on important events? Did you suffer financial problems due to medical bills and missing work? Did your marital relations suffer?
Q: How much were the total medical bills?
Were the medical bills paid or are they still outstanding? Generally, the higher the total medical expenses, the higher value of the case.
Q: Are there any pre-existing medical conditions
Even if the same body part had been hurt before, you can still have an “exacerbation” of that injury. But generally, juries value such cases less than a situation where the particular body part had not been hurt before.
Q: In what state or county will be my case be tried if I do not settle beforehand?
Some areas are more conservative than others and some are more generous. Where the case is filed depends largely on where the accident happened and/or where the defendant or defendants reside.
Q: How much does it cost to file an aviation crash lawsuit?
We believe that filing a lawsuit arising out of an airplane or helicopter crash should not cost the victim or their family members any money out of pocket. We generally handle such cases on a contingency fee basis. This means that our fee is dependent upon the outcome of the case. If no money is recovered, we don’t get paid and you don’t pay any expenses. Generally, contingency fee agreements in aviation crash cases will provide the attorney anywhere from 25% to 40% of the recovery, depending on the demands of the case.
Q: How do you find out what caused a plane or helicopter crash?
The NTSB will start the investigation. Generally, a representative of the NTSB will visit the crash site before the wreckage is removed to take pictures, interview available witnesses and other first responders, and begin gathering aircraft documents and data. Representatives of the aircraft and engine manufacturers usually accompany the investigator. Once the on-scene investigation is complete, the wreckage will usually be moved to a secure salvage facility for further examination, if necessary.
Because of limited manpower and resources, however, and the sheer number of cases that each NTSB investigator must handle, their investigations are often not as thorough as they should be. Add to that mix the fact that many of the potential defendants will be hand to “assist” the NTSB with the investigation.
As a result, to really get to the bottom of an aviation crash, the claimants’ attorneys almost always need to hire their own experts to review the work of the NTSB and to conduct their own thorough investigation.
Q: What impact does the NTSB’s report have on my case?
It depends. Technically, federal law prevents the NTSB’s conclusions from being admissible in a civil trial, although the factual portions of an NTSB report are often admissible. Sometimes, however, facts and conclusions get mixed when the investigator is writing his report. It is often difficult for a judge to separate the two. Given that fact, some judges will disallow the entire report, and some will let in much more than they should.
Q: Can I attend the NTSB wreckage inspection or examination?
No. A federal statute prohibits family members or their representatives, including attorneys, from participating in any aspect of an NTSB investigation. Interestingly, however, the aircraft and engine manufacturers, who may be potential defendants in the case, are welcome. It’s akin to letting the fox guard the henhouse. It provides the manufacturers, who may be at fault, a way to influence the NTSB’s investigation and shift blame elsewhere. By retaining an experienced aviation attorney, the families of the victims of aircraft accidents can conduct their own exhaustive investigation to find out what caused a particular crash.
Q: How Do I Hire An Aviation Accident Attorney?
Hiring any attorney is an important decision. You obviously want to make sure that you get the best representation possible. Plenty of attorneys are qualified to handle car wreck or other injury cases. Few though, truly have the experience and background necessary to successfully work on aviation related matters.
Aircraft crash cases are unique. They often involve specific legal standards, such as the Federal Aviation Regulations and various other federal statutes and treaties, and they usually require intensive factual investigation and analysis by one or more qualified experts.
Many law firm’s claim to handle aviation crash cases, but very few actually have the necessary experience and qualifications. At Braden, Varner & Angelley, our aviation accident attorneys have significant flight and maintenance experience and we have handled many aircraft crash cases in the past. Remember, an aviation accident case can often take from one to three years to complete and you will be dealing with the attorney you choose on a regular basis.
To hire one of our aviation accident lawyers, simply contact us to get the process started.