When large commercial airliners crash, it often makes news worldwide — largely because these crashes typically end with multiple fatalities. However, small, noncommercial aircraft crash more often. These include charter flights, tour planes, helicopters, private planes owned by companies or individuals and rental planes that amateur pilots can take out for a few hours or a couple of days.

Accidents involving these aircraft are considered general aviation or civil aircraft accidents. They can be caused by pilot error, faulty equipment, poor aircraft maintenance, traffic controller mistakes, a sudden onset of bad weather or some combination of these or other issues.

If a loved one has been injured or killed in a general aviation crash, it’s essential to get to the bottom of the cause(s). The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is the federal agency that investigates crashes involving civil aircraft. Their findings can often help determine which individuals and/or entities can and should be held liable by victims and surviving family members.

However, you don’t have to wait until the NTSB issues a final report, which can take many months or longer, to proceed with legal action. For example, Kobe Bryant’s widow filed a wrongful death lawsuit just a month after her husband and teenage daughter were killed in a helicopter crash in Los Angeles that also killed seven others, including the pilot.

Vanessa Bryant sued the company that owned the helicopter that crashed in to a hillside on a foggy Sunday morning – holding it “vicariously liable” for the pilot’s “negligent and careless piloting.”

An experienced attorney can help you determine whether the pilot, the aircraft’s manufacturer, owner and/or others should be held liable. They can also help you determine how much to seek in compensation for economic and noneconomic damages.