Steps To Becoming A Focused Aviation Attorney

Hudson River Airline DisasterAviation Law is a highly specialized field in the legal profession and very few law students choose to or have the skill to pursue this career path. The profession is incredibly attractive as aviation lawsuits tend to involve the largest sums of money under US legislation, but can also mean the biggest losses for an aviation company.

Becoming an Aviation Lawyer is, however, not so easy. The following phases are important to achieve this sought after status in the legal arena:

Phase 1: Law School

You need to be within the top ten (or at least within grasp of the top 10) applicants to a registered ABA (American Bar Association) law school to achieve success.

Just studying hard and making excellent grades may not be enough. You need to network throughout your period of education to build good relationships with your lecturers, professors, student body and any other people that could prove valuable later in life.

It is recommended that you join as many clubs and societies within the school environment as possible. For example, writing or editing for the law review paper, magazine, or journal for your law school will definitely be of benefit.

Phase 2: Internship with an Aviation Litigation Firm

You need to start applying for internships to a variety of aviation law firms. This process should begin before you even finish graduating to ensure that you get your name on the potential intern list early on. Start by applying to the top law firms but try to ensure that they have an aviation focus or branch.

The networking contacts that you established at law school will begin to show their true value here where these people can provide you with recommendations or referrals for a position at a specific law firm.

Once you have secured your position as an intern, you need to show dedication in the number of hours and the amount work that you put in. This is a highly pressurized job and at times the hours and the requirements may seem impossible to achieve. You also need to pay attention to your reputation by being respectful to your mentors and work colleagues.

Phase 3: The Bar Exam

During the stressful and time-consuming period of internship, you will also need to be preparing for the bar exam. Once you have passed the bar exam, it is time to start looking for work. Even in the highly specialized field of aviation law, you need to be prepared to start at the bottom.

Phase 4: Finding A Permanent Position as an Aviation Attorney

Apply to the law firm where you interned first but keep your options open and see if you may find a better offer at one of their competitors or one of the top firms that may have turned down your internship application. However, you may decide that you prefer to be a prosecutor or defense attorney before you start this process.

You need to promote the fact that you are interested in practicing aviation law and how this relates to the education you received as well as your internship. You may benefit from listing any additional aviation experience that you may have such as a pilot’s license. It goes without saying that you should dress professionally and carry yourself well throughout the interview process.

Aviation Law And Airplane Disasters

Crash of C-17Most people will never have to experience an aviation accident, but when they do they are larger than life. They happen like any other accident, with no warning, and leave everyone involved in a type of shock, left to ponder the situation. It is important to understand what happens after the initial shock wears off. You need to know how you are going to recover physically and monetarily, as well as protect your rights.

First, there is aid available to both survivors and families after an accident, the amount of aid is based on the location and type of accident. For example, the amount of aid may be different is you happen to crash outside of the United States or it happens to be a smaller crash.

The Family Assistance Act and First Response

After an aviation accident occurs there are going to be laws that come into play from various state, federal, and international levels. One of the key components is a federal law known as The Aviation Disaster Family Assistance Act of 1996. This Act dictates how airlines and government agencies are required to act following an accident. Included Are The Following Responsibilities:

Create a system of support for families that include counseling and grief services.

Establish regular briefings and communications with families. This will include the uncomfortable task of confirming deceased family members.

Plans will be set into motion to identify remains and effects and promptly return them to family members.

Assigning caregivers to families who need support.

The support that you receive from an airline after an aviation accident is required by the law. This is not the airline admitting fault in any way and should not make you waver in your decision to seek additional damages.

The Family Assistance Act will not adhere to accidents involving smaller commuter or commercial services. These types of services have their own response plans ready in an emergency. Local and state agencies such as the Red Cross can also be contacted for assistance following an aviation accident.

Seeking Financial Assistance After an Air Disaster

After an accident occurs you may find that you are in need of financial assistance. There are several sources available that you may be able to turn to for help. This includes life insurance policies as well as workers’ compensation, depending on your particular situation.

Some of the airlines have agreements in place that allow them to offer set payments in advance to survivors of families of deceased passengers. Once again these payments are not admitting fault, it is important to keep that in mind. If you seek litigation and are awarded damages, the monies collected from these payments will be subtracted from the overall amount.

After an accident, it is important to watch out for loans and advance payments. There are many companies who are willing to help you n your time of need and will make a legitimate offer. Unfortunately, there are many scammers who watch for these types of accident and prey on the families and individuals who are vulnerable and in need of help. If anyone is to offer you any type of advanced settlement read over the contract or show it to your lawyer

Communication After An Accident

After an accident, there are going to be many people and sources wanting to talk to you. Typically these communications will begin with you verifying your identity and relationship to the crash victim. Depending on the crash and how you were involved in it or to a person involved in the crash it is quite possible to be contacted by some of the following agencies:

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB)

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and other law enforcement agencies

Companies that are involved with the accident

Insurance representatives

Attorneys representing other accident victims and their families

News media outlets

It is important to be careful of who you talk to about the accident or your personal situation and look out for your rights and privacy. Stay in control of the conversation and make sure you know who you are really talking to. You want to know why they are calling, who they represent, and who they are. You are free to not have to talk to anyone other than law enforcement and investigators at this time. If you already have a specialized aviation lawyer on retainer it is just best to refer them to them.

Introduction to Aviation Law

Air Accident at SeaAviation law is a branch of law concerning air travel, civilian flight and some areas of admiralty law. It also encompasses various legal and business issues. This branch of law is considered to be international due to the nature of travel by air. In the United States, the FAA handles all aspects of flight. The Federal Aviation Administration oversees all civil aviation matters. The International Civil Aviation Organization oversees international aviation.

The ICAO is an agency that is part of the United Nations and it sets rules as well as mediates international matters regarding aviation. In the United States, aviation law can be governed and regulated at the federal or state level. In most instances it is governed at the federal level, but some rules at the municipal level are enforced.

History of Aviation Law

The very first aircraft laws were created in France in the late 1700s. These laws followed the first hot air balloon flights. International laws began taking shape as hot air balloons were used in wars like the Franco German war in 1870. The first Hague Conference in 1899 set a moratorium on the use of balloons in combat. This was not renewed until the Second Hague conference.

A need for a uniform international code regarding aviation arose in the early 1900s. This was at a time when rapid growth in the air travel field was spurred on following World War I. Each country that fought in the war recognized a need for international laws pertaining to flight. These laws were needed to protect pilots as well as enforce all national borders as they were at the end of the Great War.

Just before World War I, a few nations signed bilateral agreements to set the legal status of international air travel. There were a few countries that, during the war, had already prohibited flights over their land and in their airspace. This created a problem of there being several competing treaties regarding air travel over several different countries.

The Paris Convention in 1919 established its own treaty regarding aviation as well as the Ibero American Convention in 1926 did. The Havana Convention of 1928 also constructed its own rules for air travel. It became clear that uniformity had to be put into place across the globe when it came to aviation law.

Once air travel became a civilian matter, too, there arose the issue of international airline responsibilities. During the Warsaw Convention of 1929, uniformity in international air law, particularly with regard to the liability of international airlines was deemed necessary. It was not until 1945 that the International Air Transport Association was founded by 31 countries representing 57 airlines.

The International Civil Aviation Organization was also started as a unit of the United Nations which paid special attention to civil aviation. The Tokyo Convention of 1963 enacted international standards for the handling of criminal offenses on aircraft. Carrier liability provisions were updated in 1999 at the Montreal Convention and by 2001, the Cape Town Treaty created an international register for aircraft security interests and those of other large and movable assets.

In the United States, the Air Mail Act was enacted in 1925 followed by the Civil Aeronautics Act of 1938 which was an early form of domestic air travel regulation. The FAA or Federal Aviation Agency was not started until 1958 and it was renamed the Federal Aviation Administration in 1967 after the Department of Transportation was formed. In 1978, the air transportation industry was deregulated.

Various countries continued on their own throughout the history of aviation law to create their own national overseeing organizations. The British Commonwealth formed its own aviation regulation organization in 1920 and it also enacted its Air Navigation and Transport Act.

In Russia, the declaration over airspace was made in 1921 and they then formed the Civil Air Fleet or Aeroflot in 1932. Other communist nations followed Russia in establishing state run entities for civil air travel. Germany formed Interflug in East Germany and the People’s Republic of China form the Civil Aviation Administration.

Japan enacted its own legal regime for governing its civil aviation in 1952. This followed a short moratorium that occurred during its occupation in World War II. Early civilian air travel was only slightly regulated. It was also very competitive. The government started a regulatory system in the 1970 for three airlines, Japan Air System, All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines. These airlines minimized competition by offering highly regulated air fares.

Japan eventually deregulated its market under pressure from the United States. The US wanted to introduce its newer carriers to the Japanese market in the 1980s. Japan also began offering packaged tour airfares that were cheaper and allowed more international travelers to visit. It also created some new airlines like Skymark and Air Do making it easier for both nations to work together to promote their individual markets.

Aviation law in the United States is not under the same federal jurisdiction as admiralty law is. However, the US Constitution does provide for how admiralty law is administered. It does not, obviously, allow for air travel. There are some laws that can be managed by the states and various municipalities but these are done in an indirect manner. For instance, a municipality can enforce some laws regarding zoning. That municipality can regulate the hours of air travel or areas where flights can be directed.

State liability laws are not above federal laws. Any defect in aviation products has to be handled by the manufacturer within federal jurisdictions.

A newer form of aviation law is space law. This branch of law is still being developed as are spacecrafts and space travel. The laws of space law govern travel outside the atmosphere. The laws are developing in a similar manner to those of aviation law.

Aviation Litigation After An Air Accident

Crash of JetlinerIf you have been involved in an airplane or aviation accident you can expect a complex lawsuit to follow. Once you have found an aviation lawyer to work on your case you will soon find the amount of work that is going to be involved in the case. One of the first things to go into motion is an investigation where witnesses will be interviewed and trial preparation will begin.

Aviation Accident Scene Investigation

Your lawyer is going to set into motion a series of events that will help your case, starting with a full investigation and hiring an experienced aviation consultant. The consultant is going to help your lawyer build a solid case but will not be a witness. Consultants who work with lawyers usually have a strong aviation background and have usually worked in the industry. They sometimes have government or private sector jobs and know key individuals in the aviation field.

As the consultant and your lawyer look into the accident it enables them to determine possible causes and errors in the case and helps them to build their case. There are three main areas that will be investigated.

Possible Pilot Error Your lawyer will look into any indications that the pilot was at fault due to any type of health issues, erratic behavior or lapse in judgment.

Aircraft Mechanical Problems There will be an in-depth look into the aircraft to determine if there were mechanical problems that lead to a malfunction. This can include problems with the fuel system, landing gear, broken parts, faulty controls or even missed repairs.

External Factors Other factors that will be examined include the weather, conditions of the runway and airport, air traffic control, and the quality of the fuel.

Here is an informative video regarding aviation litigation:

Problems With Access To Airline Crash Site

One of the biggest problems in an aviation lawsuit is the ability of your lawyer to get access to the accident scene and plane wreckage. While it is important for a lawyer to examine all parts of a salvaged plane their access is strictly limited. After an accident, the National Transportation Safety Board will take control and custody of all the wreckage and parts and place a hold on them for up to 18 months. The statute of limitation in this type of case is only 24 months leaving a small window open for litigation. During this time, your lawyer will need to employ other methods to get the information needed to build a strong case.

With your lawyer unable to access all the information they need they may decide to on other options such as their choice of expert witnesses. This is due to the fact that the NTSB will allow experts to view and watch engine inspection as well as examine aircraft wreckage. The NTSB is aware of the limits on time that many plaintiffs face. The insurance representatives and aircraft manufacturer more than likely have representatives on hand with access and are actively participating in the NTSB investigation.

Reconstruction Of The Aircraft Accident

Your lawyer is going to hire accident reconstruction experts to better understand the crash site. These experts will be able to better understand the site and the crash by examining the point of impact, the vegetation in the area, and areas of ground marred by fire. During this reconstruction, it is quite possible to find missing pieces of the puzzle, such as plane parts that were missed during earlier investigations. Photographs, diagrams, and visual inspections will all be an integral part of this aspect of the crash site investigation.

Your lawyer will also have several other sources available to research. Important evidence can be recovered from first responders, media outlets, as well as any witnesses. The information that can be recovered during this vital part of the investigation can help narrow down possibilities and even learn who is responsible.

Expert Air Accident Witnesses and Trial Preparation

Your lawyer will have a slew of expert witnesses ready to testify for the case. These experts will speak to any issues of the aircraft as well as possible causes of the accident. Other witnesses will talk about possible medical conditions as well as any pain and suffering and long-term effects from the crash.

Many of these experts will be able to address a wide range of topics regarding the case. This can include information on the electrical systems, possible pilot error, plane condition, manufacturing mistakes, and general avionics.

One of the major aspects of your case is working with and preparing experts for trial. During this stage of the case, all documents and resources will be prepared for depositions during discovery. Discovery is an important aspect of the case as some types of evidence may not be allowed to be admitted into the trial for one reason or another.

Ending preparation will include the creation of visual aids such as computer-generated animation. Final preparation with witness and experts regarding any evidence that will not be allowed in trial will be addressed as well. At this time, your lawyer will be prepared to argue a well-organized case to the jury and presiding judge.

Compensation For Aviation Attorneys

Turkish Air Aviation DisasterAviation lawyers are expert in aviation law and they are hired by individuals or families of individuals who have been injured or have lost someone in an airplane incident. These lawyers are also hired by airports and airlines in case of any aviation incident. There were a total of 561,350 individuals working as lawyers in the US in the year 2010, as per the Bureau of Labor Statistics. A very small number of qualified lawyers practice aviation law as it is a highly specialized field. As far as the salaries for lawyers in this field are concerned, these are similar to salaries for other attorneys.

Aviation Lawyer’s Average Salary

Simply Hired estimates that the average salary for an aviation lawyer was approximately $96,000 each year as of July 2011. However, this is lower than the average salary earned by lawyers in other fields. As of May 2010, the average salary for an attorney in the country stood at $129,440 as per the numbers released by Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Aviation Attorney’s Pay Scale

To understand the average salary of a lawyer working in the aviation sector, it is important to compare it with the salaries earned by lawyers in various other sectors. The nationwide median salary for lawyers stood at $112,760 annually in the year 2010 as per the stats released by Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In other words, the salary for lawyers working in the aviation sector fell in the lower half in terms of average annual salary earned by all the attorneys in the country. The stats released by bureau also reveal that the salary of middle 50% of lawyers ranged from $75,200-$165,470 a year. Even though lawyers in the aviation sector fall in the lower 50% bracket, they are still in the middle of the attorney pay scale.

Location of Aviation Lawyer’s Law Office

The salary of an attorney also depends on the location. Simply Hired reports that the average salary of an aviation lawyer in Florida stood at $88,000 annually, as of July 2011. On the other hand, the average annual salary of aviation attorneys went up to $113,000 in New York. The annual average salary for aviation lawyers in the state of California stood at $109,000. On the other hand, aviation lawyers working in Texas made an average of $90,000 per year whereas in the State of Illinois, the aviation attorneys made an average of $101,000 each year.

Aviation Attorney Job Outlook

The projections published by The Bureau of Labor Statistics state that the jobs for lawyers will continue to grow from 2008 to 2018 in at an average rate of 13%. The statistics indicate that the legal representation need will keep increasing as population continues to grow. However, it has also been indicated by the bureau that other fields such as health care law and other specialties will see more rapid growth but no indication has been provided for job growth in aviation attorneys and lawyers in the aviation sector.

Aviation Attorney Career Appraisal

Welcome and don’t forget to check back soon for more information about the exciting career of aviation law and becoming an aviation attorney. Appraising your chances and an honest appraisal of the opportunities that exist in the field of aviation law and aviation litigation means we should take an institutional approach to uncovering and sharing the clearest information possible, and present it forthrightly and without fanfare.

Here at the institute, we take air disaster litigation and air law very seriously, because there are lives and fortunes at stake. Should you decide you want to enter the field of aviation accident litigation, or really any other type of personal injury or tort law, you must think seriously and soberly before you proceed. The commitment required is monumental, and the amount of work you will need to put in would be considered, by many, extreme.

We will develop this site with you in mind, seeking to help you make a wise decision. After all, it’s your life and career, and if practicing as an aviation lawyer, or working for an air law firm is in your future, you want to know you have the best possible resource at your fingertips.