It's a sight that makes children stop and point at the sky, and even makes advertising-weary adults take notice. Banner planes are attention-grabbers, although the impact diminishes during the Spring Break season when it seems like they flow in a constant stream. Given the number of banner planes that fly above our beaches, it seems almost inevitable that accidents occur. Should an injury result, our Panama City accident attorney can help victims investigate the liability of both the individual pilot and the employing company, using legal principles that also apply in a range of transportation accident settings.
As WJHG reported, a typical banner plane flight ended in a frightening crash on Monday afternoon. James Land, age 60, had been flying the yellow craft on behalf of Aerial Banners Incorporated. The plane crashed west of the Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport, in a wooded area on Vinson Road off Highway 79. While the plane's wings ended up in a mangled mess, Land walked away from the crash with only minor injuries. He was taken to Bay Medical Center by first responders, but he was released later that day.
Land reported to emergency officials that the plane's engines lost power, leading to the crash. The Federal Aviation Administration ("FAA") will investigate and determine what caused the accident and whether pilot error played a role. WJHG attempted to contact Aerial Banners to learn about the company's training programs, but the company's only comment was that it is performing its own investigation. On the company's website, it boasts a complete FAA-approved program for pilots that takes 7 to 10 days to complete and includes 50 hours of ground training, flight instruction, and an FAA observation flight.
Luckily, the pilot walked away from Monday's crash with only minor injuries, and no one on the ground was injured. If a bystander had been injured, legal principles similar to those involved in other transportation accidents could have been triggered to help the victim. One of the key issues in a personal injury lawsuit resulting from a banner plane crash will be whether the company can be held liable for the accident.
This is crucial since the individual pilot may not have the resources needed to pay a monetary award in a case involving serious injury. In contrast, the employer may have more resources and/or insurance that can cover a personal injury verdict. This same issue is relevant in trucking and bus accidents. Remember, a verdict is only helpful if the defendant can pay!
There are two types of liability that can apply in these cases to allow a victim to hold an employer responsible for an accident involving an on-the-job employee: imputed and direct liability. Imputed liability, including the concepts of vicarious liability and respondeat superior, holds the employer responsible for the employee's actions. A company may be held liable when the employee's acts fall within the scope of employment or in other instances when the employee is working to further the employer's interests.
In contrast, direct liability focuses on how the company's own negligence factored in the accident. For example, if the company provides inadequate training, this failure to train may be found to be a direct cause of an accident and may render the company liable for resulting injuries. Companies may also be directly liable for negligent hiring (ex. hiring a pilot with a poor safety record) or dangerously overworking an employee (ex. not allowing sufficient rest breaks).
A banner plane crash and a long-haul truck accident may not initially sound like similar events. However, they both raise similar issues of company responsibility for employee-involved accidents. Whether an accident involves a banner plane pilot or a trucking company driver, our Panama City personal injury attorney can help victims investigate all potential legal claims and recover vital compensation after an injury.