F-16s Crash Over Georgia! Is The Government Liable For The Damages Caused When Fighters Crash?

The McArthur Law FirmA few weeks ago, two fighter jets crashed into each other over a rural area in Georgia. The pilots were performing maneuvers as part of their South Carolina National Guard training before deployment, and both were able to eject safely, avoiding serious injury. The jets, both F-16Cs, crashed into an unpopulated, forested area. So far, the National Guard has not revealed what may have caused the mid-air collision, but cleanup efforts are underway. Generally, that means that the Army or National Guard will gather the debris (it’s government property, after all), but they may not automatically pay for the damages caused when fighters crash. Usually, that takes a lawsuit.

While it sounds like something that might happen in a movie (maybe a movie involving karaoke and beach volleyball), this crash is not the first of its kind. There have been several other instances of military aircraft going down over American soil. Most happen on military bases and result in no injuries, but some, like the crash in San Diego in 2008, cause widespread property damage and even wrongful deaths. Usually, these crashes are due to an error or malfunction in the plane itself, not maverick aviators who feel the need… the need for speed.

Does the Government Pay When Private Property Becomes a Danger Zone?

Most military accidents like jet collisions are covered by the Military Claims Act (MCA), which protects servicemen and women if they are hurt on a base or on duty. However, when a crash happens near a base, as this one did, it can injure civilians as well. While the government will not automatically reimburse you for injuries or damage caused by plummeting aircraft, the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) does allow you to file a personal injury lawsuit in federal court.

However, since you are filing a claim against a government agency, there are a bunch of rules regulating what you can do and when. Within two years of the accident, you have to first file an administrative claim with whatever military agency was at fault (in this case, the National Guard). They then have six months to respond. If they do not agree to pay what you ask, you have another six months to file a lawsuit. The whole process can get very complicated very quickly, so it’s best if you have a qualified personal injury lawyer as your wingman.

A Macon personal injury attorney at the McArthur Law Firm can be your wingman (or wingwoman) anytime.


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