Surprise! Airplane Makes Emergency Landing on LA Freeway

October 21, 2021

To save himself and his passenger, a pilot improvised and used the San Diego Freeway as a makeshift runway. The plane hit four cars and caused two minor injuries.

The airplane began experiencing mechanical problems shortly after it took off from San Diego en route to La Jolla. In desperation, the pilot crash-landed the aircraft on the southbound 5 Freeway near Via de la Valle. Part of the airplane’s wing pinned a 7-year-old girl inside a crippled SUV, but she was able to crawl to safety. Another person was injured as well.

The two people on board the single-prop airplane were not hurt.

Airplane Crashes and Mechanical Failure

Especially among small planes, mechanical failure is one of the leading causes of airplane crashes in California. Legally, the fault could lie in one of several places.

  • Airport: Small airports often do not offer the same level of services as larger airports, mostly for economic reasons. However, the legal duty of care is the same. So, if a mechanic is negligent, the airport could be financially responsible for damages.
  • Pilot: If the airplane carries passengers or cargo for money, the pilot is a common carrier in California. As such, s/he “must use the utmost care and diligence for their safe carriage, must provide everything necessary for that purpose, and must exercise to that end a reasonable degree of skill.” This responsibility includes a thorough pre-flight inspection, as opposed to a walk-through inspection.
  • Defective Product: Most aircraft, parts, and other manufacturers care only about their own profits. So, they often take shortcuts during the design and manufacturing process. The defective products which roll off the assembly line often cause serious injury.

In all these situations, a Los Angeles personal injury attorney can obtain the compensation these victims need and deserve to move on with their lives. This compensation usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.

Pilot and airport error cases usually involve negligence, or a lack of care. If a lack of care substantially caused injury, the defendant is liable for damages.

Defective product claims work a bit differently. Typically, manufacturers are strictly liable for the injuries their defective products cause. However, negligence could be relevant to the amount of damages. If there is clear and convincing evidence that the manufacturer intentionally disregarded a known risk, additional punitive damages could be available.

The Sudden Emergency Doctrine

This legal defense often comes up in vehicle collision cases. Drivers are not negligent as a matter of law if they reasonably react to a sudden emergency. If Harry swerves to avoid an oncoming car and he hits Sally, Harry might not be legally responsible for Sally’s damages.

An airplane making an emergency landing on a busy freeway is obviously a sudden emergency. No driver could possibly be prepared to deal with such a situation.

However, insurance company lawyers frequently try to expand the sudden emergency defense, particularly in pedestrian accident claims. They often argue that since the victim “darted out into traffic,” the driver couldn’t avoid the wreck. 

But a jaywalking pedestrian, even one who quickly crosses without looking both ways, is an everyday hazard, like a stalled car or a large pothole. Drivers should be prepared to deal with these situations, so they are not “sudden emergencies” in California. Whether the vehicle is on the road, in the sky, or somewhere in between, the legal issues are much the same. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Los Angeles, contact the Law Offices of Eslamboly Hakim & Sharona Hakim. We routinely handle matters throughout SoCal.

Photo by Chris Leipelt on Unsplash

Sharona Hakim

Sharona Eslamboly Hakim, Esq. is a successful personal injury attorney and the principal of the Law Offices of Eslamboly Hakim firm in Beverly Hills, California.

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