The victim’s family is seldom in the best emotional state to make important decisions right after an airplane or helicopter accident. The stresses can be overwhelming. Fortunately, hiring an aviation attorney is one decision that is seldom urgent. It is a decision that, in most cases, can wait.
But how long is too long to wait? Certainly, the attorney who the family eventually selects will want to investigate the accident, interview witnesses, collect evidence and make sure the wreckage is preserved. He would like to begin his work while the evidence is fresh. The more time that passes, the harder it will be for the attorney to prepare the case properly. That said, as long as the wreckage remains secure in the custody of the NTSB, it is usually safe to wait up to 90 days after an accident before retaining an aviation lawyer.
Some families may want to wait longer than that. In fact, some may want to wait until the NTSB has completed its work. That’s not a good idea. In most cases, a lawyer should have investigated the case and, if warranted, filed a lawsuit well before the NTSB’s issues its final report, for the reasons discussed here.
In all cases, the victims must retain an aviation lawyer before the applicable statute of limitations runs. It doesn’t matter how good the case is — if the applicable statute of limitations expires and no lawsuit is on file, the victim’s rights will be lost forever. Some statutes of limitation may expire as soon as 6 months after the accident. Of course, every case is different. Though some of the statutes of limitations are discussed here, determining which statute of limitation applies is a task best left to a qualified aviation lawyer.