What Is an Aviation Lawyer?
An aviation lawyer is a specialized lawyer who works with legal issues related to aviation. Aviation lawyers have hands-on experience in this particular area of the law, making these attorneys better equipped than non-specialized lawyers to deal with complex aviation regulations and practices. Many aviation lawyers are licensed pilots. As a result, aviation lawyers have expert knowledge about:
- Aircraft operation
- Airport security
- Aviation regulation
- Rules and regulations governing flight safety
An aviation lawyer can defend you in legal matters related to the Federal Aviation Administration and other federal agencies. Aviation lawyers may also deal with claims and issues such as the following:
- Personal injury claims
- Insurance coverage issues
- Wrongful death claims
Who Needs an Aviation Lawyer?
If you face an issue related to aviation law, you can work with an aviation lawyer who has the specific knowledge and experience you need. Various individuals and entities may be involved in aviation-related agreements and litigation, including the following:
- Aircraft controllers
- Aircraft manufacturers
- Aircraft owners
- The FAA
- Maintenance facilities
What Does an Aviation Lawyer Do?
An aviation lawyer can assist you with business aviation matters, such as purchasing or selling an aircraft. An aviation lawyer may also work on litigation involving aviation accidents.
Business aviation involves complex processes and transactions. The financing, purchasing, selling, or leasing of aircraft can lead to financial disputes, necessitating litigation and expert representation from an aviation lawyer. In terms of business aviation, an aviation lawyer can help to resolve:
- Airport lien foreclosures
- Issues with insurance coverage
- Partnership disputes
- Warranty claims
If you are purchasing an aircraft, you will want to work with an aviation lawyer. An aviation lawyer can help you to structure the aircraft's ownership and operation to:
- Comply with FAA and U.S. Department of Transportation requirements
- Minimize liability
- Minimize taxes while maximizing tax deductions
An aviation lawyer also serves as an invaluable resource if you are involved in an aviation accident. Aviation accident lawyers can:
- Investigate circumstances surrounding an aviation accident's cause
Review accident and incident reports deciding the cause of an accident, such as:
- Faulty equipment
- Negligence of air traffic controllers
- Negligence of flight service station employees
- Pilot error
- Problems with the structure or design of the aircraft
- Violations of FAA regulations
- File lawsuits to have a jury or judge determine the outcome of a case
- Negotiate settlements with the party responsible for an accident
Aviation lawyers often work on a team of experts to investigate accidents that involve airplanes or helicopters. They may work on cases of aviation disasters that take place around the world. In addition to aviation lawyers, teams that investigate these cases can include the following:
- Applied mathematicians
- Other legal experts
What Is Aviation Law?
An aviation lawyer must have extensive knowledge of aviation law. Aviation law is a specific branch of law that deals with:
- Air travel
- Aviation business transactions
- Passenger safety
The aviation industry is highly regulated overall. Aviation law tends to be very complicated since it covers all legal issues related to aircraft operations and aircraft.
Aviation law operates on a federal level. This branch of law falls under the jurisdiction of a few different federal agencies, including the following:
- National Transportation Safety Board, or NTSB
- Transportation Security Administration, or TSA
In the United States, the FAA, an agency of the U.S. Department of Transportation, acts as the federal agency responsible for aviation safety. The FAA provides services such as the following:
- Airport safety
- Air traffic control
- Aviation mechanic licensing and oversight
- Pilot licensing and oversight
The FAA will also assist the NTSB with investigations of helicopter or airplane crashes. The FAA investigates any incidents that could impact aviation safety.
An aviation lawyer must be familiar with various federal statutes. An aviation lawyer must also know federal aviation regulations. Many treaties and federal statutes could apply when aviation crashes or disasters occur, including the following:
- Death on the High Seas Act: This federal law applies to deaths that occur on the high seas or open ocean, especially waters that do not fall under a particular country's jurisdiction.
- Federal Aviation Act: This act, which created the FAA, allows a Federal Aviation Administrator to approve regulations that promote aviation safety.
- General Aviation Revitalization Act: Known as GARA, this act gives immunity to aviation manufacturers for aircraft, airplanes, or helicopters more than 18 years old. Certain exceptions apply to this rule. Here is an article about GARA.
- The Montreal Convention: Various nations adopted this international treaty in 1999. The treaty governs international flights. In most cases, the Montreal Convention replaces the Warsaw Convention. Here is an article about the Montreal Convention.
Any aviation lawyer must also be familiar with state and federal laws as they relate to:
- Choice of law rules: These regulations determine which state's substantive law gets applied to a given case. An aviation lawyer will evaluate any potential forum's laws to decide where to bring the aviation case.
- Jurisdiction and venue laws: These laws will determine where someone may enter litigation.
- Negligence laws and causes of action: State law regulates this arena. Aviation mechanic negligence, maintenance negligence, and pilot negligence could all constitute the basis for a claim for damages.
- Wrongful death laws: State and federal laws offer the right of action to survivors of someone killed due to a defendant's negligence or when a defendant is otherwise liable for the person's death.
Product liability laws:
These laws protect consumers from dangerous products. At the same time, product liability laws hold distributors, manufacturers, and retailers responsible for putting products into the marketplace that they know or should have known are defective or dangerous. In many cases, these laws are state laws. An aviation lawyer must understand all product liability laws that may apply to a case to properly represent the victims of aviation accidents. Product liability laws govern the liability of parties such as the following:
Statutes of Limitations and Statutes of Repose
An aviation lawyer needs to be familiar with all statutes of limitations that could apply to a given case. An aviation lawyer must also understand the choice of law rules to determine which statute will apply to a given aviation litigation case.
Statutes of limitations put a limit on the time in which someone can bring legal action. The statute of limitation in an aviation case typically is the applicable state or federal personal injury or wrongful death statute of limitation. In some circumstances, the statute of limitations can be tolled or suspended.
The statute of limitations differs from the statute of repose. The statute of repose limits an aviation or product manufacturer's potential product liability to a specific period after the product gets manufactured and sold. GARA creates a statute of repose in some aviation crash cases.
The issues an aviation lawyer deals with can be incredibly complicated. At the same time, an aviation lawyer may need to serve in times of great stress and even tragedy when it comes to aviation accidents. That's why it's essential to work with an experienced lawyer who understands aviation law's intricacies and the issues you face if you have problems related to aviation law.