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How The Aviation Disaster Family Assistance Act Helps Victims Of Airline Crashes

Thankfully, plane crashes and other aviation disasters are not nearly as common as automobile or other motor vehicle accidents. Unfortunately, when they occur, they are often catastrophic and result in the devastating loss of many lives. In 1996, Congress enacted legislation — the Aviation Disaster Family Assistance Act (ADFAA), designed to protect and support victims of aviation disasters and their families.

Understanding how this law protects you, airlines’ responsibilities and knowing your rights can help you make informed decisions while picking up the pieces after an aircraft disaster.

What Is the ADFAA, and How Does It Help Victims and Their Families?

The ADFAA came about because, prior to 1996, there was no consistency in the way airlines dealt with plane crashes. In some cases, airlines released lists of victims to the public before notifying victims’ families. There were also widespread problems with the way airline companies and government agencies addressed the investigatory process.

Congress put the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in charge of the ADFAA. Some of the NTSB’s responsibilities under the law include notifying victims’ next of kin after an accident, meeting with families, coordinating disaster relief, arranging for Family Advocates and mental health counseling for victims’ loved ones, and communicating investigation progress and findings to families before that information is made public.

Coordinating disaster response efforts in this way helps victims’ families by providing a consistent framework and giving families ready access to resources that can help them in the aftermath of a plane crash.

What Are Airlines’ Responsibilities Under the ADFAA?

While the NTSB has certain responsibilities under the ADFAA, airliners also have obligations under the law.

Those obligations include:

  • – Providing lodging for victims’ family members near the crash site, and transportation to and from the crash site
  • – Creating a family assistance center where the NTSB can meet with and help victims’ loved ones
  • – Giving victims’ families a toll-free phone number for information and support
  • – Returning the victims’ personal belongings and remains to the family

How a Skilled Aviation Accident Attorney Can Help Victims and Their Loved Ones

The ADFAA helps ensure victims’ families have critical resources after accidents occur. If the accident was the result of a manufacturing or design defect — or happened because of a negligent or intentional act on the part of the manufacturer, pilot, or airline employee or contractor, you may be entitled to additional compensation for your losses. Aviation accident attorneys can protect your rights — holding responsible parties accountable after accidents occur.

Nolan Law Group helps victims and their families recover the damages to which they are entitled. If you or someone you love was affected by an accident involving aircraft of any size, talk to the experienced aviation law attorneys at Nolan Law Group. We understand how to navigate the complexity surrounding aviation law, are experienced litigators and are proud of our track record of success.

To learn more and schedule an initial case consultation, contact us today.

Ethiopian Report Shows Pilots and Passengers Suffered Terrifying Ordeal Due to Boeing’s MCAS

The Ethiopian government recently released its preliminary accident report to the public for the March 10, 2019 accident involving Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302. The report included plots of the Flight Data Recorder data and a detailed time history of events including those derived from the Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR). Review of this data leaves no mystery as to why the Boeing 737 MAX fleet was grounded weeks ago after the data became available to the investigators and parties to the investigation. The 737 MAX is defective and dangerous in its current configuration and this data reveals the horror the Ethiopian pilots and their passengers experienced.

The accident airplane no sooner left the runway than the Captain’s stick shaker activated due to a single failed angle of attack (AOA) sensor on his side. Upon retracting the flaps and turning off the autopilot the Boeing MCAS system began applying nose-down stabilizer trim due to the failed AOA sensor, and the Captain trimmed against it with his electric trim switch. This cycle repeated until the flight crew recognized the symptoms and turned the stab trim switches to the CUTOUT position per Boeing procedures for runaway stabilizer trim. For some reason however, the crew could not get the mechanical stabilizer trim to work and they were left to hold their aft force on the control columns, with the Captain asking the First Officer to help him hold the high forces.

The flight crew eventually turned the electric stabilizer trim back on to try to relieve their control forces and the MCAS once again made nose-down stabilizer trim inputs until hitting the nose-down limit. The pilots couldn’t hold this much nose-up control force as the airplane had accelerated to 340 knots indicated airspeed, its maximum allowable airspeed.

Tragically, the airplane pitched nose-down and entered its fatal dive, accelerating to 500 knots airspeed and reaching -2 g vertical acceleration before impacting the ground at about 40 degrees nose-down pitch attitude and 20 degrees left-wing-down roll attitude. The airplane likely experienced terrifying high speed Mach buffet vibrations and related sounds of high airspeed as it descended towards the ground – a tragic final 20-second scene of emotional pain and suffering for everyone on the airplane.

Boeing failed to employ a proper and safe engineering process for the 737 MAX MCAS design, system safety analysis, and certification. The consequences are beyond horrific for those on board Flight 302, their families and friends, and the entire public who expect safe airline travel, especially from the modern “MAX” version of Boeing’s venerable 737 series. Boeing should and must be held fully accountable for its failures and all damages suffered by these innocent victims and their families.

Nolan Law Group Files Suit Against The Boeing Company

Chicago, Illinois (December 5, 2018) Nolan Law Group filed a lawsuit against The Boeing Company on behalf of a family who has suffered the loss of a loved one due to the crash of Lion Air Flight JT 601. The complaint was filed in the Northern District of Illinois and identifies that the Boeing Company breached its duty of care to the Plaintiff and identifies the particulars of the Boeing Company’s negligence and carelessness. The civil action seeks compensatory damages arising out of a commercial airline crash on October 29, 2018 involving a Boeing Model 737-8 airplane operated as Lion Air Flight JT 610 that crashed into the waters of the Java Sea off the coast of the Republic of Indonesia killing all one hundred eighty-nine (189) persons on board.

Here you can find a copy of the complaint filed by Nolan Law Group as well as the Answer that was filed by The Boeing Company:

Satijo v. The Boeing Company – Complaint

Satijo v. The Boeing Company – Answer to Complaint

Nolan Law Group currently represents several families who have lost family members in the Lion Air Flight JT601 crash on October 29, 2018.

Nolan Law Group helps individuals and families, in Chicago and around the world, after a tragic loss or serious personal injury. The law firm focuses its practice on aviation disasters. Nolan Law Group is one of a small number of law firms with a niche in the highly complex and ever changing area of global and domestic aviation litigation.

For more information, please contact the firm at 312.630.4000 or contact@nolan-law.com .

Nolan Law Group Obtains One Of The Nation’s Top 20 Verdicts Of 2017

Chicago-based law firm Nolan Law Group regularly advocates for the victims of aviation disasters and their loved ones. The firm recently helped recover another multimillion-dollar award for the families of three victims of a 2013 cargo plane crash in Afghanistan. The $115.75 million award in Cook County was the 19th largest jury verdict in the United States in 2017.

The details of the crash — captured on dash cam video on April 29, 2013 — were tragic. The defendant in the case, National Air Cargo, Inc., was responsible for loading and restraining two 12-ton and three 18-ton U.S. Marine Corps Mine Resistant Armor Protected (MRAP) vehicles onto a Boeing 747 cargo plane operated by National Airlines. The flight was supposed to take the five MRAP vehicles to Dubai, where they would be loaded onto a sea vessel. Ultimately, the plane crashed and the seven crew members aboard perished.

As plaintiff’s attorney for two of the three victims’ estates, Nolan Law Group gathered and presented evidence to the jury showing that the plane crash and the resulting deaths of the crew members occurred because National Air Cargo, Inc. did not have a sufficient number of restraints or tie-down points in the airplane’s cargo area to safely carry five heavy MRAP vehicles. In fact, evidence showed that the safety equipment on board would only have been sufficient for one of the 12-ton MRAPs — not the five vehicles on board. Making matters worse, the safety straps and restraints that were available were not in good condition and some should no longer have been used at the time of the crash.

As the plane took off from Bagram, Afghanistan after the cargo was improperly loaded, the safety restraints failed, sending one of the MRAP vehicles through the aft bulkhead at the airplane’s tail. Flight control systems and hydraulics were so badly damaged that the flight’s crew wasn’t able to regain control of the plane and it ultimately crashed to the ground, killing all aboard.

The jury returned a total award of $115.75 million for three plaintiffs — including $47.25 million for the Captain’s estate; $43 million for the estate of the First Officer; and $25.5 million for the estate of an off-duty Captain in the cockpit. Each award included $5 million, recognizing the shock, fright and emotional distress the victims experienced in the minutes leading to the plane crash. Following the verdit, these three cases did settle for a confidential amount, as well as the cases for the families of three other co-employees represented by Nolan Law Group.

With more than three decades of experience advocating for victims of serious personal injury accidents and for the families of wrongful death victims, Nolan Law Group has built a reputation for being willing and capable of handling complex cases involving aviation disasters. This recent jury verdict demonstrates the firm’s commitment to pursuing justice.

Nolan Law Group’s founder, Donald Nolan — who along with partner Thomas Routh — represented the estates of the First Officer and the off-duty Captain. “The jury’s verdict sent a message that our society still values human life and safety over the pursuit of increased corporate profit,” said Nolan.

To learn more about how Nolan Law Group represents victims of aviation accidents, traumatic brain injury victims, and other serious personal injury and wrongful death matters, contact the firm today online or call 312.630.4000.

The FAA’s Failing Helicopter Flight Regulations

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Helicopters and the Flight Into Regulatory Neglect

Another helicopter into the drink, killing five within sight of New York City’s East River shoreline. “Another” is used to characterize the tragedy, because helicopters seem to crash with disconcerting frequency in the city — and just about everywhere else (e.g., five killed in a February 2018 Grand Canyon tourist helicopter crash).

Once again, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) seems asleep, both before and after this latest disaster. Fully five days from the 11 March crash elapsed before the FAA banned “doors off” helicopter flights and promised a “top to bottom” review of such flights. This is typical; over the years the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has repeatedly criticized the FAA for its lackluster oversight of the aviation industry.

In this case, the Eurocopter AS350 was owned and operated by Liberty Helicopter Tours. The FAA approved the certification of the helicopter design for passenger carrying use; it endorsed the passenger restraint systems (or should have), it concurred with flights without doors, it approved the installation of critical controls mounted on the floor, near passengers’ feet and carry-on baggage.

The NTSB has a lot to deal with, principally the FAA’s terminal case of regulatory neglect and lackluster oversight of operators.

Overview of the NYC Helicopter Crash

Let’s briefly review what has been publicly reported.

The single-engine turbine helicopter was flying five tourists on a picture-taking jaunt along the East River. A photo taken aboard shows the passengers happily yukking it up for the camera. Moments later, pilot Richard Vance radioed “Mayday … East River, engine failure.” The helicopter ploughed into the water, with skid-mounted flotation bags deployed, then promptly turned upside down. Only the pilot, with a five-point restraint system, was able to unbuckle with a quick, simple slap of the buckle, located right in front of him, and escape while his passengers were vainly struggling to unbuckle from harnesses designed to keep them inside the doorless passenger compartment. In the preflight brief, they had been advised of the small knife affixed to one of the straps by which they might cut themselves free. Suddenly upside down in freezing water, the frantic quest for air undoubtedly overrode preflight mention of a knife. If their restraints could not be swiftly unbuckled like the pilot’s, then obviously “one level of safety” for all aboard, an FAA mantra, was not followed.

The doors had been removed to give the passengers a better view, the complex restraint system designed to compensate by keeping viewers within the cabin. Let’s ask, what tests were conducted on real people, suddenly upside down in the water, to make sure the passengers released the restraints with one simple motion, without benefit of a knife or razor? What kind of “safety” system requires the use of a knife? The restraints were not part of original equipment for which the helicopter was FAA certified. Was the FAA involved in supplemental type certification of the passenger restraints? To what level of detail? E.g., on-site supervision of real-life dunking tests using everyday volunteers, not belt manufacturer volunteers?

There is a report that the engine quit due to a bag or its strap inadvertently jamming the floor-mounted fuel shutoff lever, forcing the ditching. If so, here’s a critical control mounted out of the pilot’s immediate line of sight, vulnerable to activation by a misplaced foot or carry-on item. If such was the case, how did the helicopter attain original design certification by the FAA? Did the agency simply endorse a spotty European certification?

The FAA’s Neglect of Helicopter Regulations

With flights in highly congested airspace over New York City, the skies crowded with tall buildings and other aircraft, the FAA nonetheless approved these tourist helicopter flights for single pilot operation. A co-pilot could be gainfully employed keeping a lookout, manning the radios, scanning the instruments, etc., thereby freeing the pilot from these mundane but necessary tasks to concentrate on aviating. In May 2013 the FAA declared that helicopters previously approved for two-pilot operation would be authorized for one pilot flights based on “advanced technologies … that can reduce pilot workload…” Did this helicopter feature these un-named “advanced technologies”?

Finding out what started the accident chain-of-events will be needlessly difficult because, unlike for jetliners, the FAA does not require electronic flight recorders for helicopters. The fact that the chance of being killed is about seven times higher for workers commuting by helicopter to offshore oil rigs than for other workers in the United States, according to a 2013 report by the Centers of Disease Control (https://www.cdc.gov/
mmwr/pdf/wk/ww6216.pdf) was not enough to stimulate the FAA to, finally, require helicopters to be equipped with electronic flight data recorders, the essential “black boxes” used to unravel the mysteries of airliner crashes.

The inflatable bags mounted in the helicopter’s landing skids clearly did not forestall the entire machine from fatally tipping over. There is an account that one of the bags did not fully inflate. If so, did real-life testing reveal a one-in-six bag (15%) failure and the consequent inversion of the helicopter?

And, surely, the FAA is aware of the European Aviation Safety Agency’s (EASA) work on helicopter ditching. A 2016 report (EASA report “Helicopter Ditching Occupant Survivability — NPA [Notice of Proposed Amendment]) reminded the helicopter industry that “an ‘air pocket’ large enough and accessible to all passengers in the cabin, following capsize, must be provided (both with the flotation system intact and with single float puncture)” and that the “helicopter must not sink with one flotation unit lost.”

A 2005 report on helicopter ditching by Britain’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA Paper 2005/06) concluded, “… ditched helicopters are likely to capsize … they invariably turn completely upside down, leading to complete flooding of the cabin … When this happens the occupants must escape very quickly because of their limited breath-holding capability … Occupants who do not escape from the cabin within a matter of seconds are likely to down.”

A detailed report on EASA standards by Eurocopter (report EASA.2007.C16) underscored that “additional flotation devices high on the fuselage in the vicinity of the main rotor gearbox (the ‘side-floating concept’)” would prevent a total inversion of the helicopter in the event of ditching and would ensure “the retention of an airspace inside the cabin.”

The latest helicopter tragedy in New York City underscores deficiencies in regulatory oversight and design that have been documented for years. Likewise, workable solutions have been proposed. They have been dumped in the FAA’s “pending” box, without action. Benign regulatory neglect is too kind a gloss on deadly complacency.

To learn more about how Nolan Law Group can represent you, contact the firm today online or call 312.630.4000.

$115M awarded for Afghanistan plane crash

BY LAUREN P. DUNCAN

Law Bulletin Staff Writer

A Cook County jury last Thursday night awarded a $115.75 million verdict to the families of three flight crew members who were killed when the cargo plane crashed at the Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan.

The plaintiffs filed wrongful death complaints against National Air Cargo Inc. and affiliated company
National Airlines after a Boeing 747-400 it operated crashed, killing all seven crew members aboard.

The plaintiffs alleged National Air was responsible for the April 29, 2013, crash, which was captured on a dashboard video that went viral. The plane was carrying five armored vehicles. They alleged Boeing manuals showed the plane could only haul one of the five vehicles at most and that the vehicles were not tied down with the required number of straps.

Following a 13-day trial, at about 9 p.m. Thursday, a jury awarded $47.25 million to the estate of flight captain Brad Hasler, which had originally been a $54 million verdict but was reduced due to contributory negligence attributed to him.

The estate of first officer Jamie L. Brokaw was awarded $43 million and $25.5 million was awarded to the estate of Jeremy P. Lipka, an off-duty pilot who was in the cockpit. They were all from Michigan.

“The jury’s verdict sent a message that our society still values human life and safety over the pursuit of increased corporate profit,” said Donald J. Nolan of Nolan Law Group in a news release. Nolan and his colleague Thomas P. Routh represented the estates of Brokaw and Lipka.

Hasler’s estate was represented by David Katzman and Bruce Lampert of Katzman Lampert & McClune in Troy, Mich. “We’re very pleased with the result,” Katzman said.

The crash happened after a Boeing 747-400 converted freighter was loaded with five mine-resistant, armor-protected vehicles owned by the Marine Corps at Camp Bastion, Afghanistan, and headed to Bagram en route to Dubai World Airport where the vehicles were set to be loaded onto a ship. They eventually were set to be transported to Yermo, Calif.

Shortly after the plane took off from the Bagram, where it had stopped to refuel, it stalled, took a sharp dive toward the ground, crashed and exploded.

The plaintiffs alleged at least one of the 18-ton vehicles broke away from its restraints, pushing a smaller vehicle through the back bulkhead of the plane and cutting two hydraulic system lines and causing other extensive damage.

According to information from the Nolan Law Group, two “black box” recorders were damaged when the vehicles shifted.

Information from the boxes showed they stopped recording when the plane was 33 feet above ground, at which time the plaintiffs alleged the plane nosed up and entered an aerodynamic stall before it fell to the ground.

According to the release from Nolan Law Group, the U.S. Department of Defense had a multimodal contract with National Airlines to move military equipment from Afghanistan to the United States. National Airlines had a joint venture with National Air Cargo Inc., based in New York, and National Air Cargo Middle East FZE in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, to perform the work under the contract.

Of the five armored vehicles loaded on the plane, two of them weighted 12 tons and three were 18 tons. The plaintiffs argued the Boeing plane manual and the manual from Telair International, which was the manufacturer of the cargo handling system used to tie the vehicles down, showed that no more than one of the 12-ton vehicles could be safely transported on the plane.

They further alleged there were not nearly enough straps used to tie down the vehicles and that the straps that were used were in poor condition.

The jury ruled in favor of the plaintiffs on counts of wrongful death and predeath damages. The verdict amounts included $5 million each “for the shock and fright each of the men experienced from the time of takeoff until the time of the airplane’s impact with the ground,” the Nolan firm’s release states.

The suit was filed in Cook County because The Boeing Co. was originally named as a defendant. Boeing and AAR International/ Telair International, which were also previously named as defendants, settled before trial, according to information from Nolan Law Group. Mark A. Dombroff, a Dentons partner based out of Washington, D.C., who represented National Air, declined to comment.

The case was tried before Circuit Judge Lorna E. Propes. The three consolidated cases were Elizabeth Brokaw v. National Air Cargo, Inc., 13 L 9650; William Thompson v. National Air Cargo, Inc., 13 L 9651; and Robin D. Hasler, et al., v. Natio

To learn more about how Nolan Law Group can represent you, contact the firm today online or call 312.630.4000.

**VIDEO** Donald J. Nolan Interviewed on ABC News Discussing Springfield School Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Donald J. Nolan was recently interviewed on Springfield’s ABC News 20 regarding an incident which occurred last September that sent more than 180 students from North Mac school to the hospital for carbon monoxide poisoning. Five separate lawsuits were filed in connection with the deadly gas exposure.

Donald J. Nolan Re: North Mac school carbon monoxide poisoning

Source: ABC News

To learn more about how Nolan Law Group can represent you, contact the firm today online or call 312.630.4000.

Lufthansa’s Low Ball Offer on Germanwings Aviation Disaster–An Open Invitation to Sue

While en route to Düsseldorf, Germany from Barcelona, Spain in March, 2015, an airplane owned and operated by Lufthansa Germanwings crashed into the French Alps, killing all passengers and two pilots. Investigators later discovered one of the pilots–Andreas Lubitz–deliberately crashed the plane into the mountains after locking the other pilot out of the cockpit.

Recently, Lubitz’s employer and operator of the Germanwings airline, Lufthansa, offered financial compensation to relatives of those killed in the crash amounting to 25,000 euros (USD$27,740) per victim.  Chicago Aviation Law firm, Nolan Law Group, believes that this offer is completely inadequate and worthy of further appeals for more of a realistic compensation amount.

 

Lufthansa Germanwings executives hold a joint press conference  in Berlin, Germany, Tuesday, June 30, 2015.

Joint press conference in Berlin, Germany, Tuesday, June 30, 2015.

Lufthansa has also said they plan to provide 7.8 million euros to pay the educational expenses of children who lost one or both parents in the crash and that the airline will set aside 6 million euros towards “individual support for aid projects of relatives” in the coming months, although exact details of the program have not been revealed.

Why Relatives of Crash Victims Will Need an Aviation Accident Lawyer

While compensation for some of the deceased’s families is expected to be less than $100,000, other relatives could receive millions of dollars because of their nationality.

As explained by aviation litigation attorney Donald J. Nolan: “Compensation amounts are ultimately determined by a country’s unique legal system regarding aviation disaster compensation limits”.

According to a Time Magazine article, a U.S. aviation litigation attorney can get their clients millions of dollars in compensation for either surviving an airplane crash or being the relative of someone who died in an airplane crash. Contrast that to China, for example, where the average settlement for victims of airplane disasters is only around $500,000–and it’s even lower for European victims of airplane disasters.

The Montreal Convention

Compensation for non-U.S. victims and their families of the Asiana Airlines Flight 214 crash will be much less than for American passengers aboard the plane when it crash-landed at the San Francisco airport in 2013, killing three Chinese girls and injuring nearly 200 passengers.

A treaty called the Montreal Convention regulates compensation to people suffering injuries while traveling by air internationally. This treaty prevents non-U.S. citizens aboard Flight 214 from filing lawsuits in U.S. courts, even though the crash happened in San Francisco. Consequently, many victims will not receive adequate compensation amounts they deserve. However, some victims have hired an American airplane crash attorney skilled in navigating complex European and Asian laws to help them get the compensation they deserve.

The Korean Airline Crash of 1997

Director of Litigation Thomas J. Ellis points out the cases of family members of victims killed in the 1997 Korean Airlines disaster who, by filing lawsuits in the U.S., received over 100 times more money than victims suing in South Korea.  Asiana, the airline responsible for the 2013 San Francisco crash, claimed they were only obliged to pay $170,000 per passenger, citing the Montreal Convention.

Non-U.S. victims and relatives of victims injured in an airplane crash must endure years of endless litigation, stalling tactics by airline attorneys and, ultimately, out-of-court settlements that are disturbing inadequate and insulting. Enlisting the assistance of an experienced airplane injury attorney working for Nolan Law Group is essential to fighting successfully for the right to receive compensation due to airline negligence.

To learn more about how Nolan Law Group can represent you, contact the firm today online or call 312.630.4000.

**VIDEO** Donald J. Nolan Interviewed on Fox News Discussing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH 17

The media often looks to Nolan Law Group for insights into important legal issues. Considered by many journalists to be an authoritative resource for accurate information, our attorneys and experts are frequently interviewed by newspapers and magazines, as well as many television news programs. Donald J. Nolan was interviewed on Fox News discussing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH 17 on Friday July 18, 2014.

Donald J. Nolan Re: Malaysia Airlines Flight MH 17

Source: Fox News

**VIDEO** Thomas P. Routh Interviewed on NBC News Discussing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH 17

The media often looks to Nolan Law Group for insights into important legal issues. Considered by many journalists to be an authoritative resource for accurate information, our attorneys and experts are frequently interviewed by newspapers and magazines, as well as many television news programs. Thomas P. Routh was recently interviewed on NBC Nightly News by Tom Costello regarding Malaysia Airlines Flight MH 17 on Friday July 18, 2014.

Thomas P. Routh Re: Malaysia Airlines Flight MH 17

Source: NBC News