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Frequently Asked Questions about Airline Accidents

Honest answers from a New York airline accident law firm serving clients worldwide

Knowing what to do after an airline accident can be overwhelming. You have so many questions and so many legal issues facing you. Fortunately, you're not alone. At the Jonathan C. Reiter Law Firm, PLLC , our experienced airline accident attorneys have dedicated their careers to helping injury victims and their families around the world.

We have a long history of obtaining the results clients need to continue to live their lives with dignity. Some of the verdicts and settlements our attorneys helped secure for airline accident victims and their families include:

  • $32 million for relatives of victims of American Airlines Flight 587 Belle Harbor, NY *
  • $5 million for relatives of victims of Swissair Flight 111 Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia *
  • $3.6 million for landmark case involving relatives of victim of Egyptair Flight 990 *
  • $2 million for relatives of victim of defective handrail on airplane stairs *

Make your case matter. Contact us. We fight for airline accident victims and families.

We know you must have a lot of questions about your case. That's why we have compiled a list of some of the most common questions people have about airline accidents. The more you know, the smarter your decisions.

We're willing to do whatever it takes to help you obtain the compensation you deserve. Your family shouldn't have to suffer for the rest of your lives because of an airline accident. Take back control. Contact Jonathan C. Reiter Law Firm, PLLC, today.

When you contact us, you'll notice the difference right away. We'll take the time to learn about your case. We listen. And we'll communicate clearly with you throughout the legal process. We will keep you informed. We'll consult with you every step of the way. We're on the same team.

Give your case an edge. Contact us. Call (212) 736-0979 and schedule a free consultation. We're conveniently located in The Empire State Building in Manhattan. Our airline accident attorneys serve clients throughout the United States and around the world.

Frequently asked questions about airline accidents


Who investigates commercial airline accidents?

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigates all airline accidents in the United States. The NTSB also investigates:

  • International airline accidents involving United States-based airlines
  • International airline accidents involving airplanes that departed from the U.S.
  • International airline accidents involving airplanes scheduled to arrive in the U.S.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) also sometimes investigates aviation accidents, particularly when airline accidents involve violations of FAA regulations.

In either case, it's important to have someone investigating your airline accident looking out for your personal interests. That's why people throughout the world regularly hire us. We have years of experience, thoroughly understand aviation laws and a strong track record of success.

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What is the statute of limitations for taking legal action after an airline accident?

The statute of limitations varies depending on where you airline accident occurred. That's why it's critical to contact a lawyer as soon as possible to discuss the details of your case. A delay may affect your family's ability to be fairly compensated for your airline accident.

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Should families negotiate with the airline or its insurance company after an airline accident?

Every airline accident is unique. In some cases, it's more advantageous to negotiate directly with the airline. Other times, it's better to negotiate with the airline's insurance company. Make sure you make the right decision. Discuss your case with experienced airline accident attorney.

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What types of compensation can families obtain if a loved one is killed in a commercial airplane crash?

The airline can be sued for the wrongful death of the passenger. In general, the family can recover financial compensation, known as "damages," for loss of support, and children can recover for loss of a parent's nurture, care and guidance. Some states permit damages for grief and suffering of family members, although New York and many other states do not. Depending upon the circumstances, damages may be recovered for the victim's pain and emotional suffering even for the minutes or seconds prior to or during the crash.

Since damages for each passenger's death are dependent upon the passenger's income and the amount of support he or she was providing to the family, the damages may vary widely from passenger to passenger. The attorney's job is to gather and present the evidence to support the largest possible award for each family.

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Is there a limit to the amount of money families can recover for an international commercial airline accident?

There is no limit or cap on damages in an international airline accident. International airline crashes are governed by the Warsaw and Montreal Conventions, international treaties that limit damages to $75,000 per passenger. However, almost every major airline has signed the International Air Transport Association (IATA) agreement that voluntarily waives this limitation.

The IATA agreement also provides for a minimum payment to each passenger's family of 100,000 SDR's (Special Drawing Rights, an international monetary unit). This equates to approximately $140,000 at the present time and fluctuates over time.

This minimum amount does not prevent the family from recovering millions of dollars in a wrongful death lawsuit in an appropriate case.

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Is there a limit to the amount of money families can recover for a domestic airline accident?

Like international commercial airline accidents, there is no arbitrary limit or cap on damages for domestic airline accidents. However, the Warsaw and Montreal Conventions do not apply to domestic airline accidents in the United States.

That means the surviving family members can often sue for a variety of damages for airline accidents in the United States not governed by the Warsaw or Montreal Conventions. In some jurisdictions, this means you can sue for additional damages, including:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Mental anguish
  • Grief
  • Emotional distress

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Where can families file a lawsuit for a domestic airline crash?

A lawsuit for wrongful death arising from a domestic airline crash can usually be brought in the victim's home state, especially if that is where the flight originated from or that was the flight's intended destination.

Sometimes, it is more advantageous to bring the lawsuit in the place where the airplane crashed, or where the airline has its main office. Some states have more liberal damages laws than others. That's why a careful evaluation must be made with the attorney on the issue of where to bring the lawsuit.

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Where can families file a lawsuit for an international airline crash?

International airline crashes are governed by the Warsaw and Montreal Conventions and the IATA agreement that prescribe where the lawsuit can be brought. In general, a lawsuit can be brought in the victim's home country, the airline's home country, the destination of the flight or the place where the ticket was purchased.

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Can families sue an airline if a loved one was killed in a terrorist attack on an airplane?

Yes. You have the right to sue an airline if a loved one was killed in a terrorist attack. For many families, they choose this route because they want to know exactly what happened. It's not just about the money. It's about holding airlines accountable and uncovering the truth.

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Should I hire an aviation accident attorney as soon as possible after a family member is killed or seriously injured in a commercial airline crash?

Yes. An experienced aviation accident attorney can help the grieving family members in a variety of ways. The airline may contact family members to arrange for retrieving personal effects of the decedent, making travel arrangements to the site of the crash and other details. In the process, the airline may be seeking to interview family members and gather information from them that may help them defend a lawsuit that they know will arise in the future.

Don't speak directly with the airline. Hire an experienced aviation attorney to deal with the airline directly and shield the family from direct contact with airline investigators who may wish to obtain taped or written statements.

Family members should not give oral or written statements to the airline or its representatives. More importantly, family members should not sign any documents prepared by the airline or accept money or other benefits from them without first speaking with an attorney.

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Why should I hire a New York aviation accident attorney to sue for wrongful death of a family member killed in an international or domestic airline crash?

Airline crashes usually involve passengers from many different countries or states whose only connection is that they are involved in a common disaster. It is important to retain a knowledgeable and experienced aviation accident attorney to prosecute a case against the airline wherever it is most advantageous to bring the lawsuit.

In many cases, all of the wrongful death cases from an airplane crash are transferred to one jurisdiction for trial of the airline's liability. A New York aviation accident attorney can handle an airline crash case wherever it occurs in the United States, although it may require the attorney to obtain permission to practice in that state.

Don't underestimate the complexity of your case. Contact the New York aviation accident Jonathan C. Reiter Law Firm, PLLC . Call (212) 736-0979 and schedule a free consultation today. We're conveniently located in The Empire State Building in Manhattan. Best of all, you only pay us if we win. That's because we work on a contingency fee basis.

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(* Cases were prosecuted by Mr. Reiter as a member of a separate and distinct law firm.)