This case involves a couple who were flying from the South to the Midwest to return home after a visit with family members. The couple was traveling with their 4-year-old and 2-year old daughters. The flight was delayed at least twice and did not approach its final destination until almost midnight. The plane touched down in a raging thunderstorm. Instead of decelerating as it should, the plane ran off the runway and came to a stop after striking an electrical stanchion and breaking into three pieces. The body of the plane split open and it then caught on fire. The wife had trouble holding onto the children and getting them out of the plane. She suffered numerous physical injuries including a permanent knee injury that limited her mobility and required surgery. She also was diagnosed as suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder and had to see a psychiatrist for medication and a psychotherapist for counseling. She was placed on multiple medication, including Paxil and Zoloft, but the diagnosis was that the wife’s posttraumatic stress disorder was permanent. The wife brought a personal injury suit against the airline claiming that the airline had been negligent, failing in commercial flight operations and aviation regulations.
Question(s) For Expert Witness
- 1. Can the survivor of an airplane crash sue the airline for negligence if they suffer permanent physical injuries and a permanent mental disorder as the result of the crash?
Expert Witness Response
In general, a plane crash survivor who is diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may suffer from many physical and psychological symptoms that require extended medical treatment and rehabilitative care. Usually, a plane crash survivor who is diagnosed with PTSD may require long-term therapy, counseling and prescription drug care that may cost tens of thousands of dollars each year. Also, a plane crash survivor who is diagnosed with PTSD may not be able to return to their job for weeks, months, or years following the crash because it was such a traumatic event. If the survivor of a plane crash decides to bring a negligence suit against the airline, they must prove that the airline owed a high degree of care to each passenger to prevent a crash from happening and that the airline failed to exercise this degree of care and this caused the crash. In this case, the wife could probably bring a negligence suit against the airline because the airline’s crew failed to take evasive measures to avoid a crash in the bad weather. Also, because the wife’s permanent injuries and PTSD will cause her to lose the ability to earn a living in the future, she probably can bring a suit against the airline for loss of future earnings and compensation for the post-crash trauma she has suffered and will suffer in the future.