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Aviation Litigation

Special Reports

GMR Consulting take a brief look at what's involved in being an aviation expert witness

Litigation is a fact of life in aviation, and aviation litigation relies heavily on the use of expert witnesses to analyse the technical facets of an accident or incident and to explain them clearly in terms that judges and authorities can easily comprehend. If you're involved in aviation and especially if you're an aviation professional, you might find yourself in the role of either an “advisor” or an “expert” to lawyers, insurance companies or the aviation authorities. Qualified aviation professionals are frequently retained in order to investigate, analyse and possibly perform tests regarding the issues involved, or to give an initial overview of a case. This normally occurs in the early stages of a claim and the advice will often be delivered in a more informal manner, i.e. helping either the Claimant or Defendant lawyers to establish the merits of a claim. However, if formally instructed as an expert, the Civil Procedure Rules which govern expert evidence in the English Courts will apply.

The aviation industry is very complex and those involved in the litigation process may therefore need to retain experts in several different areas. For instance, expert pilots may well be schooled in aviation weather but they are usually not meteorologists, so an expert meteorologist may be needed to provide vital evidence. If the case is one arising from an accident or incident, a piloting expert (recognised for their relevant knowledge of the particular aircraft) could be asked to analyse the crash and provide opinions on the causation and whether or not airmen breached their standard of care or the relevant regulations. After evaluating all relevant evidence, aviation experts can also often be involved in the creation of demonstrative evidence. This can be as sophisticated as a computer animated re-creation of the accident or incident with real time tapes and flight data, or merely a collection of photographs which may be useful in explaining aviation concepts establishing how an incident may have occurred.

The most convincing experts are usually those whose experience is most relevant. The pilot expert who has recently flown the type of aircraft involved in the accident or incident may be more persuasive than the one that merely studied the Flight Manual and the reconstruction expert who has examined the wreckage may be better than the one who studied the photographs. Many aviation professionals have full time jobs within the aviation industry, (keeping their expertise current) and render expert services on a part time basis. However, those retired from the aviation industry can also use their knowledge as an expert, especially if they have retained links in their specific field. GMR Consulting Aviation Experts include currently licensed fixed wing, rotary and hot air balloon pilots, instructors and examiners. They also offer qualified professionals in many other aviation related disciplines such as engineering, risk assessing, air traffic control, meteorology and aerodrome management. All consultants are up to date on the latest international aviation regulations and flight procedures. GMR Consulting provide expert witness services worldwide and have been instructed by Claimant and Defendant lawyers in highly complex civil and criminal aviation litigation. This has involved commercial, military and private flights, together with airshow flying incidents. More information can be found at: www.gmrconsulting.com

This article originally occured in issue 9 of The Expert Witness Journal, due to an internal Editorial error we have reprinted a corrected version. EWJ apologise for any misundertanding this may have caused.

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