In a typical year, 1,700 Americans will suffer an airplane-related accident. Six hundred of those Americans will die.

Airplane travel is touted by many experts as being much safer than traveling by motor vehicle: There are 0.175 fatalities for every 100 million kilometers driven by automobiles but only 0.03 fatalities per every 100 million kilometers flown by airplanes. These statistics don’t really tell the whole story though.

A more useful figure can be computed using the number of trips a passenger makes. Fatalities per 100 million passenger trips average 4.5 for cars and 55.0 for airplanes. By this measure, aviation is considerably more dangerous than motor vehicle travel.

What causes airplane accidents? Any number of circumstances ranging from equipment failure to human failure. The former category includes things like engine failure, instrument failure, computer or software problems and poor maintenance and upkeep of mechanical equipment while the latter includes pilot error, air traffic controller era and most instances when one airplane collides with another.

As an airplane passenger, you have no choice but to entrust your safety to the care of others. When accidents occur, they represent negligence on the part of one or more of those individuals charged with making sure all aspects of your journey are safe. These include individuals you would expect to bear this responsibility like pilots, airport mechanics, airport safety personnel, other contractors responsible for aircraft maintenance, Federal Aviation Administration (FFA) air traffic controllers and FAA meteorologists but also some individuals with a less direct but no less critical connection to your trip like the aircraft owner; the manufacturer of the aircraft; the manufacturer of the instruments, computer systems and other equipment used on the aircraft and the airport owner. The responsibility for the airplane accident could rest with any one of these third parties and you can expect the companies who underwrite their insurance to aggressively fight any claims that are made against their policyholders.

Determining exactly who is responsible for an airplane accident is a very complicated process. All the evidence must be collected and carefully examined for relevance. Some of this work may be done by the National Traffic Safety Board (NTSB), an independent Federal agency charged with investigating all civil aviation accidents; however the data the NTSB collects in its attempts to determine causality are very different from the evidence collected by legal investigators.

Determining what legal jurisdiction governs an airplane accident can also be a complicated matter. Are the circumstances of the accident covered by state or federal law – and if state law, which state: the state the aircraft took off from or the state over whose air space the accident occurred?

The legal ramifications of an airplane accident can best be handled by an attorney who is thoroughly grounded in the relevant laws, who has the expertise to analyze the evidence, and who is aggressive enough to stand up to the insurance companies’ legal counsel — in other words, a lawyer who is experienced in airplane accident redress.

The information given above is not meant to substitute for a legal consultation. If you or a loved one has suffered an injury as the result of an airplane accident, you may have legal options for compensation. Make an appointment to speak with an attorney with expertise in the legal ramifications of airplane accidents as soon as you can.