The accident victim should retain the best aviation contingency fee attorney he can find, regardless of the attorney’s piloting credentials. Rather than asking whether the prospective attorney has a pilot’s license, the victim should ask whether the attorney has a history of successful jury verdicts in aviation cases. A record of successful verdicts is important even if the victim would prefer to settle rather than go to trial. Defendants and their insurance companies will seldom pay a fair settlement to a victim represented by an attorney who has not proven that he can take an aviation case all the way to verdict. The lack of a trial record is a weakness that a defendant or the insurance company will always exploit. It’s a weakness that no amount of piloting credentials can make up for.
Of course, many of the aviation lawyers who own the best trial records are also active pilots. That’s because current piloting experience is an advantage when interviewing witnesses or taking their depositions, sifting through evidence, and working with experts.
For this reason, the manufacturers who are to blame for an accident often chose lawyers who are pilots to defend them. They feel that, all other things being equal, lawyers who are pilots have an advantage over those who aren’t.
But for the victim of an aviation accident, the prospective aviation attorney’s record at trial is always more important that his flying credentials. If the aviation attorney doesn’t have a history of successful jury verdicts, that lawyer – regardless of whether he holds a pilot’s license — is a poor choice.
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