Aviation Litigation Update

Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels, Agosto & Friend has a long history of successfully litigating cases involving aircraft crashes. Our extensive experience includes cases against Braniff Airways, Hawaiian Airlines, Swiss Air Boeing airplanes, various military aircraft manufacturers, numerous private plane manufacturers. The causes of these crashes involved pilot error, manufacturing defects or both. Over the years we have developed and maintained close professional relationships with several experienced and knowledgeable experts on aircraft failures, involving both the pilot error/negligence and products liability issues. In short, our firm is well equipped, given our experience, knowledge and resources needed, to competently and successfully litigate these complex cases.

As most of you know, a helicopter crashed in Louisiana in January of this year, followed closely by the crash of a small private aircraft near Anahuac, Texas, both resulting in fatalities of pilots and passengers. Our firm has been retained to represent families who are affected by these tragedies. These crashes are still being investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), and we, in addition to continuing our own investigations and analyses, are monitoring their progress closely. As part of our own continuing investigation, I would like to mention another potentially deadly hazard facing pilots today...birds. It has come to our attention that aircraft crashes frequently involve bird strikes. Though a bird strike might seem a bit obscure, be assured that bird strikes are extremely dangerous and potentially deadly.

Now, a few facts about bird strikes. The number of reported bird strikes was about 5,000 in 2006 and 7,000 in 2007. Keep in mind that about 80% of bird strikes go unreported, so clearly, the problem of bird strikes is more than the stated statistics indicate. The force of the impact on an aircraft depends upon the size and weight of the bird, the velocity, and the direction at the point of impact. Even with a small bird, an aircraft traveling at a high speed can cause considerable and potentially deadly damage. For instance, the impact of a 12-pound bird colliding with an aircraft traveling at 150 m.p.h. equals that of a half ton weight dropped from a height of ten feet.

Additionally, there is a 15% chance that the point of impact on a GA aircraft would be the windshield. Obviously, this exposes the pilot to an increased risk of serious bodily injury from the collision alone, as well as the possibility of not being able to properly control the aircraft. Pilots should pay close attention during the bird-migration seasons in the spring (March & April) and the fall (September & October). An increased number of bird strikes occur during the fall migration because large flocks move over a shorter period of time, as opposed to the spring migration which are slower and more irregular. Though in-air bird strikes are a huge problem, pilots must not forget that birds are also a problem for landing aircraft, as they can have a tendency to congregate on the runway as well.

Interestingly, the vast majority of bird strikes occur during takeoff/climb and approach/landing. Also, about 90% of bird strikes occur on or near airports, and those airports near water have a tremendously hard time limiting the bird population for pilots and air passengers alike. Further, pilots should understand that the altitudes of migrating birds vary with winds aloft, weather fronts, cloud conditions, terrain elevations, and numerous other environmental variables. The birds like higher altitudes as there is less drag where the air is thinner, making it more effortless to fly.

Therefore, not only must pilots be aware of other aircraft and dangerous weather, a good pilot must also be on the lookout for migratory birds-as they are just as potentially dangerous as anything else a pilot may confront while navigating through the air.

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  • 2016-2017 Equal Access to Justice Champion

    The Equal Access to Justice Champions Program was started by the Houston Bar Association in 2006, to help ensure placement of Houston Volunteer Lawyers cases with pro bono volunteers. Originally, firms were tiered according to size, and firms within each tier committed to accept a certain number of pro bono cases from HVL each year for five years.

  • The National Trial Lawyers | Top 100 Trial Lawyers

    The National Trial Lawyers: Top 100 is an invitation-only organization composed of the premier trial lawyers from each state or region who meet stringent qualifications as civil plaintiff and/or criminal defense trial lawyers. Selection is based on a thorough multi-phase objective and uniformly applied process which includes peer nominations combined with third-party research.

  • Million Dollar Advocates Forum

    Established in 1993, the Million Dollar Advocates Forum (which includes the Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum) is one of the most prestigious groups of trial lawyers in the United States. Membership is limited to attorneys who have won million and multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements. There are over 4000 members throughout the country. Fewer than 1% of U.S. lawyers are members.

  • Recognized by Best Lawyers America | Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels, Agosto & Aziz | 2017

    Recognition by Best Lawyers is based entirely on peer review. Their methodology is designed to capture, as accurately as possible, the consensus opinion of leading lawyers about the professional abilities of their colleagues within the same geographical area and legal practice area.

  • Lead Counsel Rated

    In order to earn the Lead Counsel Rating, an attorney must not only demonstrate significant legal experience, but must also receive multiple peer recommendations advocating his or her ability. This is a key component in the screening process.

  • Texas Super Lawyers | Texas Monthly

    Each year, Super Lawyers recognizes the top lawyers in Texas via a patented multiphase selection process involving peer nomination, independent research and peer evaluation. The Texas lawyers who receive the highest point totals during this selection process are further recognized in Texas Super Lawyers Top Lists.

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