Who Investigates General Aviation Accidents?

Posted on June 7, 2021 in Aviation

Aviation accidents do not happen often. When an aviation accident does take place, many different federal and state organizations may become part of the accident investigation. An investigation serves several key purposes, including identifying the cause of the aviation accident, determining liability, and improving aircraft safety for the future. Learning who investigates general aviation accidents can help you understand what to expect if you get involved in this type of disaster.

The National Transportation Safety Board

The National Transportation Safety Board, or NTSB, is a government agency in the United States that was created in 1967. The purpose of the NTSB is to determine the probable cause of transportation accidents, including aviation accidents, so that it can create safety recommendations to prevent such accidents in the future.

The NTSB is one of the first investigators to the scene at every general aviation accident in the country. It also maintains a census of aviation accidents, leads national teams on foreign airline accident investigations, and assists aviation accident victims and their families by helping them coordinate resources available from the government.

During major investigations, the NTSB sends a team of technical and forensics experts to visit the scene of the aviation accidents. In the case of a minor crash, the NTSB may only send one specialist to the scene. After gathering evidence, taking photographs, and using other tools to investigate, the NTSB will determine the probable cause of the aviation accident for the record.

The Federal Aviation Administration

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is another federal agency in the U.S. that may investigate an aviation accident. The FAA is the subdivision of the Department of Transportation that specifically deals with aviation and aircraft matters. The FAA has the authority to create and enforce safety regulations in all aspects of aviation, including air traffic control, aircraft maintenance, aircraft construction, and pilot training.

The Federal Aviation Administration may take part in an aviation accident investigation to determine if someone violated any federal safety rules and if this might have contributed to the accident. If so, the FAA can consider taking legal action against the airline, aircraft manufacturer, or another party for breaking the rules and risking public safety.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, better known as the FBI, typically does not get involved in general aviation accident investigations. However, it may join an investigation if the aircraft accident appears to have involved matters of national security, such as terrorist activity or a security breach.

Local Aviation Accident Investigators

In addition to federal boards and agencies, state and local authorities may also be involved in an aviation accident investigation. On the day of the aircraft disaster, local examiners from nearby airports, fire departments, and hospitals may assist victims and serve as witnesses to the events immediately following the accident.

An Aviation Accident Attorney

Finally, an aviation accident attorney or law firm may investigate on behalf of a client who is filing a personal injury claim. If an injured accident victim or surviving family member wishes to file a personal injury or wrongful death claim, that party may hire an aviation accident attorney for representation. The law firm will investigate the accident to determine fault and search for evidence of negligence.  It is not unusual for attorneys on both sides to disagree with the NTSB’s conclusions, and the NTSB conclusions about what happened to cause a crash are not admissible in civil trials relating to aviation disasters.  With the information obtained, the law firm can help a client bring a lawsuit against one or more parties in pursuit of financial compensation.

If you were recently injured or lost a loved one in an aviation accident in Phoenix, the attorneys at Gallagher & Kennedy can help. We are regarded as some of the top aviation accident attorneys in America, with more than 40 years of experience investigating all types of aviation and aircraft accidents. We can help you get to the bottom of what caused your accident, as well as fight for the recovery you deserve.