Matthiesen, Wickert & Lehrer, S.C. maintains a long tradition of effectively subrogating in cases involving damage to or crashes of airplanes and helicopters. This includes subrogation involving aircraft manufacturers or repair facilities, air carriers, airports, fixed base operators (FBO), and airline leasing companies. We have been involved in numerous subrogation cases in a number of states, including cases which deal with product liability, personal injury, death, warranty cases, baggage and cargo loss, aircraft leasing disputes, airport construction cases, aviation coverage cases, etc. We are frequently asked to handle property damage and diminution of value and loss of use claims as well.
MWL Attorney Frank G. Mackoul II in our Jacksonville, Florida office oversees the Aviation Crash Subrogation practice section within our firm. Frank is a U.S. Marine Corps Veteran. He served two combat tours of duty in Iraq as an Assault Helicopter pilot. He was awarded two Air Medals for successfully completing over 100 flying combat missions. Additionally, he was an Instructor Pilot teaching Advanced Aerodynamics to incoming, military flight students where he was awarded the Navy/Marine Corps Commendation Medal and named Flight Instructor of the Year.
More than just about any other area of litigation, aviation subrogation requires a significant amount of experience investigation the cause of a disaster and working closely with the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Congress, where necessary, to obtain key investigation, reports, and opinions as to the cause of a crash. It requires a working familiarity with a limited amount of effective aviation experts who can provide the oversight, opinions, and expertise necessary to help a subrogated insurance company build its case.
All too frequently, aviation subrogation cases in which FAA error contributes to the crash, present significant obstacles. We cannot sue the U.S. as the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) protects the government from liability for claims premised on the lack of training, oversight, or qualifications of air traffic controllers. Product liability claims are also challenging thanks to the General Aviation Revitalization Act (GARA) which protects manufacturers from liability for aircraft more than 18 years old. This covers much of the general aviation fleet. The majority of aviation accidents involve small airplanes and helicopters, which are 82 times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash and commercial airlines.
In addition to aircraft crashes, there are also many other incidents that frequently occur in and around airports that can result in damage or injury claims, such as slips and falls, escalator/elevator incidents, baggage handling equipment, jet bridges, airport tugs, motor vehicles and pedestrians. Getting MWL on board immediately after an aviation disaster means greatly enhanced prospects for subrogation recovery.