A Boeing 777 crashed July 6 at San Francisco’s airport with 307 people on board. The photos and interviews with survivors have rocked the nation – with passengers’ own pictures of the disaster giving an unusually raw look at the aftermath of a plane crash on social media. But for those on board, the disaster is much more than a news story: it’s a life-changing tragedy.
The aircraft was operated by Asiana Airlines flying from Seoul, South Korea to San Francisco. During the final minutes of the flight there were no warning signals and everything seemed normal. But on approach the tail of the airplane struck a seawall and the tail severed, detaching completely from the plane as it made a sudden crash landing.
Two teenage girls seated near the back of the plane were killed. Five other passengers are in critical condition, and 181 people were injured.
Investigators have stated that there is no indication of mechanical failure. The pilots of the plane were highly experienced, one of them holding more than 10,000 recorded flight hours. That leaves many media channels spinning the crash as a total accident, just a stroke of bad luck.
Legally, that’s not the case.
When we assume that a crash was random happenstance, it implies that no action could have been taken to prevent the accident – and that’s rarely true. There’s no reason a commercial airplane should ever crash on landing, and it’s the airlines’ responsibility to ensure that.
When an aircraft is designed, its engineers give it a life expectancy – they determine how long it can continue to fly, with proper maintenance, before needing to be retired. It’s then up to the airline to make sure that maintenance is actually carried out, to address problems proactively, and to provide skilled pilots. If an airplane fails, the fault goes either to the engineers or the airline.
That means that the victims of the Asiana Airlines flight have a legal claim to compensation. That compensation can help them pay for their medical care, their lost and destroyed property, lost wages from missed work time, and even counseling to get past the grief or trauma of the accident.
It will take lengthy investigations to determine the direct cause of the crash, but victims shouldn’t wait. At Steinger, Iscoe & Greene we urge every passenger to talk to a lawyer: even the most seemingly minor of injuries can indicate much more serious damage, and everyone aboard is susceptible to the stress and trauma of the experience.