Determining Liability in a Hot Air Balloon Accident
Although somewhat uncommon, accidents involving hot air balloons have happened. Because these sorts of accident cases are not as common and not often talked about, you may not know where to turn if you or a loved one has been involved in such an accident. In situations like these, an airplane accident lawyer can help you give you legal advice decide to file a claim after a pilot error caused a hot air balloon accident.
A devastating example
In the state of Texas in 2016, a hot air balloon accident occurred that is thought to have been the most deadly accident of its kind in the United States. In this crash, 16 people, including the pilot of the hot air balloon, lost their lives.
This accident happened because the hot air balloon made contact with a live electrical wire, which caused the balloon to burst into flames and crash to the ground.
It was discovered in the subsequent investigation of the crash that the pilot had been convicted of driving under the influence four times and had received a large number of customer complaints about his piloting capabilities. He had even been sued before after eight passengers sustained various injuries after he crash-landed a balloon with them in it.
People who knew the pilot told the authorities that he was a recovering alcoholic who had a history of being a safe pilot and took his job and the lives of his passengers seriously.
Who investigates the accident?
The investigation after an aircraft accident (the category under which a hot air balloon accident would fall) is performed primarily by the National Transportation Safety Board, or NTSB. The NTSB is an independent federal agency devoted to determining probable cause and liability after aviation accidents, helicopter crashes, and issues with aircraft manufacturers occur.
In addition to determining probable cause, their mission also states that they promote transportation safety and provide assistance and support to victims of aviation accidents and their families. They also work with accidents regarding product liability, commercial airliners, railways, highways, pipelines, and marine activities.
Who else plays a role?
Another main agency that could potentially play a large role in the investigation after a hot air balloon accident is the Federal Aviation Administration or the FAA. The FAA is a branch of the United States Department of Transportation, unlike the NTSB, which is an independent governmental agency. Among other aspects of air travel, the FAA is responsible for all air traffic control in America’s skies, as well as setting any necessary regulations and standards for the construction, care, and maintenance of aircraft that are legally allowed to fly.
When an aircraft accident occurs, the FAA may join in the FTSB investigation if they believe that air traffic regulations were violated during the accident, and if they believe that legal action will have to be taken on behalf of the Department of Transportation.
It is probably somewhat unlikely that the FAA will become involved in the investigation of a hot air balloon accident, but it’s a possibility they could under certain circumstances.
If there are threats to national security or potentially a motive driven by domestic terrorism, the FBI might also involve itself in the FTSB investigation, as that falls under their jurisdiction.
Local authorities, such as firefighters and law enforcement officials, might also be called to the scene after a hot air balloon accident and might even partake in any subsequent investigation that could follow.
Hot air balloon accidents are rare, but with the growing popularity of this recreational activity, accidents are still very much a real possibility. If you or a loved one has been affected negatively by a hot air balloon accident, consider contacting a law firm skilled in helping people who have experienced airplane accidents.
A firm like Cochran, Kroll, & Associates, P.C. has years of experience helping airplane accident victims, and we give free consultations. Call our law firm to establish a good attorney client relationship at 1-866-MICH-LAW (1-866-308-6261) for a no obligation case evaluation.