After an uncontained engine failure aboard Southwest Airlines Flight 1380 on Tuesday, pilot Tammie Jo Shults, one of the first female fighter pilots in the U.S. Navy, calmly guided the crippled aircraft to a relatively safe landing. Although one passenger was killed during the flight, Shults averted what could've been a deadlier catastrophe.
Still, where there are injuries aboard an aircraft, lawsuits are certain to follow. Here are some of the legal considerations following the Southwest accident.
As Forbes reported, the investigation into the cause of the engine failure (led by the National Transportation Safety Board and assisted by representatives of Southwest, Boeing, and engine-manufacturer CFM International) will likely take weeks or months to complete. According to passengers, there was a loud boom from the engine on the left side of the plane, and the entire plane shuddered. One of the windows over the left wing ruptured and a female passenger was sucked part way out of the window.
Other passengers were able to drag her back into the plane and begin providing medical attention. One passenger, 43-year-old Jennifer Riordan, died in the incident, although it has yet to be confirmed if she was the same passenger sucked out of the plane.
Common Carrier Liability
Airlines and air carriers are held to a higher standard of care for their passengers than the average car driver. Airlines are governed by the Federal Aviation Act, and they are responsible for even the slightest negligence on the part of their employees and required to do all that is reasonable under the circumstances to prevent injuries to passengers. As a common carrier, airlines must exercise vigilance in all aspects of aviation, including operation, maintenance, inspection, and loading their aircraft.
Travelling by air is still relatively safe. As Forbes also pointed out, Riordan's death was "the first resulting from an accident involving a U.S. certificated-airline in a little over nine years," since 49 people aboard Colgan Air Flight 3407 (and another on the ground) died in a crash near Buffalo, New York in 2009.
If you've been injured in an aviation or travel accident, contact an experienced injury attorney.