Airplane Accident Lawsuits: Domestic vs. International

How do domestic and international aviation lawsuits differ? To find out, we asked Larry Goldhirsch, a New York plaintiffs’ attorney with 38 years of experience whose practice represents aviation accident victims. He told us that first and foremost, there will be an investigation in every plane crash. He explained the differences between what happens in the investigation of a domestic crash versus an international crash.


A domestic aviation crash will be investigated by the NTSB, which is the National Transportation Safety Board of the United States. They’re located in Washington, and as many people already know, NTSB investigators get sent out immediately when there’s a crash to investigate its causes. The government has an interest in finding out immediately what caused the plane to go down, whether it was pilot fault, a product fault or a combination of both. The NTSB does a very detailed analysis.


If there’s a crash in a foreign country, although the NTSB may be invited to assist in the investigation, generally speaking, the investigation in the foreign country is not done by anyone with the competence of the NTSB. It’s done by local officials and those local officials often do not call in the NTSB, although they may call in the manufacturer of the plane that has been involved with the accident. That may not be free of conflicts of interest when such investigations are undertaken under those terms.

Who else might be involved?

Contrary to what most of us may believe, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) are generally not involved in aviation accident investigations. Goldhirsch explained, “Generally, the FAA doesn’t investigate accidents and the only time the FBI will investigate an accident is if there’s some evidence that a criminal act was involved. Of course, in most cases where there’s an aviation accident, unless there’s an intentional act by some organization or by some passenger, generally speaking, there isn’t a criminal act involved. So the FBI would not be involved, or they would just be involved to rule out any criminal act. Most of the time, it’s just the NTSB that investigates.”

While the investigation process of a plane crash requires expertise; so does the litigation process. If you’ve been injured in an aviation accident, contact an experienced lawyer whose practice focuses in this area of the law to discuss your situation. Consultations are free, without obligation and are strictly confidential.