Aviation Accident:

Determining Fault

Liability in aviation accidents is rarely straightforward. The operator of the aircraft may be liable if his or her error is directly responsible for the accident. The owner of the aircraft, due to “vicarious liability,” may also be held liable, regardless of his or her direct involvement with the accident. If defective parts are found to be the cause of injury or damage, the manufacturer may be liable.

The Government of the United States may be found liable if an accident is found to be the result of an error on the part of ATC (Air Traffic Control). Moreover, if multiple parties are involved with an aviation accident, it may be the duty of a judge or jury to determine the degree of responsibility. For example, it may be determined that manufacturer is 70 percent responsible for an Aviation Accident but that further errors on the part of the pilot make up the remaining 30 percent. This is called “comparative fault” or “comparative liability” and is the means by which most states determine the distribution of blame.