Can You Sue for a Defective Aircraft Design if You Are in the Military?

Law Office of Osborne Law Firm, P.C

Military personnel work with heavy equipment, vehicles, and aircraft every day. If you’re injured because the design of an aircraft was defective – or if you lose a loved one because an aircraft was designed defectively – discuss the case with a Charlotte personal injury attorney at once.

Military plane and helicopter crashes are almost always tragic. Lives can be lost. Military personnel know that they may be hurt or killed by an enemy in combat, but they should never be injured or lose their lives because of the negligence of someone on their own side.

Personal injury and wrongful death claims that involve military aircraft may be difficult to pursue because the responsible parties may have legal protection that at least partially shields them from liability.

Nevertheless, when an injury or a wrongful death happens because of a military aircraft defect or failure, in many cases, victims or surviving family members have the right to take legal action with a claim in civil court, recover compensation, and hold the responsible party or parties liable.

Who May Sue the Government?

In a 1950 case (Feres v. United States), the U.S. Supreme Court found that the federal government cannot be held liable for injuries to members of the military sustained while they are on active military duty and caused by the negligence of others who are in the armed forces.

That ruling also prevents families of service members from filing wrongful death or loss of consortium claims against the government when a service member is killed or injured in combat. However, relatives of active-duty personnel may sue the government in a number of situations.

Can You Sue for a Defective Aircraft Design if You Are in the Military?

Manufacturers of military aircrafts and aircraft parts may be sued when a manufacturing or design defect is responsible for a civilian’s injuries or wrongful death. And military personnel themselves are recovering more compensation now than in the past, as explained below.

Can Private Contractors Sue or Be Sued?

While active-duty military personnel may not sue the government directly for personal injuries, as private contractors take over more military activities due to outsourcing, those contractors may be held accountable when they have liability in personal injury or wrongful death incidents.

When an aircraft that is used or contracted by the military is owned, maintained, and operated by a private business, some of the defenses and immunities that apply to the government might not apply to a civil action brought against that private business.

Veterans who are employed by private military contractors – and who are injured in military aircraft incidents – have considerably more legal protection and more ability to take legal action than active-duty military personnel.

Those veterans have the right to sue under the laws of most states and under the Federal Tort Claims Act of 1946. Veterans who are injured while working overseas for military contractors may bring claims under the Defense Base Act of 1941 or the Military Claims Act of 1956.

What Will Your Attorney Need From You?

If you have been injured in a military aircraft mishap, or if someone you love was lost in a wrongful death in such an incident, the first step you should take is to contact a Charlotte personal injury lawyer.

That lawyer will need a great deal of background information. Be prepared to answer these questions at your first consultation with your personal injury or wrongful death lawyer:

  1. Where and when did the incident happen?
  2. Who may have liability and be named as a defendant?
  3. Who is the aircraft manufacturer?
  4. Was the aircraft owned privately or by the military?
  5. Who was responsible for providing maintenance to the aircraft?

Defendants in personal injury and wrongful death cases arising from military aircraft incidents may include the federal government (in some instances), aircraft manufacturers, aircraft parts manufacturers, and any private contractors who may have worked on or with the aircraft.

How Will Your Attorney Prepare Your Case?

Your Charlotte personal injury attorney will determine which state’s or nation’s laws apply, what legal remedies are available in that jurisdiction, which party or parties have liability, and what deadlines for taking legal action – that is, what statutes of limitations – may apply.

Can You Sue for a Defective Aircraft Design if You Are in the Military?

Your attorney may review online information such as news stories and videos about the incident. Your attorney may travel to the crash location to interview witnesses personally, or your attorney may hire one or more investigators to locate witnesses and uncover additional evidence.

Will the Evidence You Need Be Available?

In a typical product liability case, the product must be studied to determine how it was defective. In cases that involve military aircraft, the aircraft will probably be located on a base. Usually, the military unit involved in the incident will store the aircraft pending further investigation.

If the aircraft was lost or destroyed, there should still be a comprehensive record of its history and disposal. Even without physical evidence, there should be a paper trail that will allow your attorney to investigate the cause of the incident and to pursue a claim on your behalf.

How Are Aircraft and Parts Manufacturers Protected?

The right to sue a military aircraft or aircraft parts manufacturer over a defective aircraft or part is substantially limited by a 1988 Supreme Court decision (Boyle v. United Technologies).

Can You Sue for a Defective Aircraft Design if You Are in the Military?

The Court in this case held that liability for a design defect in military equipment doesn’t apply if:

  1. The military approved precise specifications.
  2. The equipment met those specifications.
  3. The supplier warned the military about the risks of using the equipment.

The Boyle ruling makes it difficult to sue a military aircraft or aircraft parts manufacturer. If you are unable to bring a claim against a military aircraft or aircraft parts manufacturer, your Charlotte personal injury lawyer will explain your other legal options for compensation.

What Else Should Victims and Their Families Know?

Representing victims in cases arising from military aircraft accidents requires specialized technical knowledge and a great deal of legal experience. You should select a North Carolina attorney who has successfully handled injury and wrongful death claims related to the military.

These cases are not easy to win. Victims have no guarantee of success. However, a wrongful death or personal injury lawyer will handle your case on a contingent fee basis, so you’ll pay no fees upfront, and if you’re not compensated at the end of the process, you owe no attorney’s fee.

Your attorney is only paid when and if you recover compensation. Your first consultation is also offered without obligation or cost. It’s your chance to receive personalized legal advice, to learn how the law applies in your own case, and to find out more about your legal rights and options.

It’s important to start legal action as quickly as possible after an aircraft accident. If you’ve been injured or if you’ve lost a loved one in a military aircraft incident, make the call now to schedule your first meeting with a North Carolina personal injury or wrongful death lawyer.

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