Airline and aviation crash lawsuits in New York and across the country often depend heavily on evidence supplied by federal investigators. What happens when these professionals are unable to do their jobs?
This question might have an answer soon. In the aftermath of the record-length government shutdown, the NTSB announced a backlog of delayed and stalled investigations.
Most of the people involved with the airline and aviation industries are not government employees. In fact, aside from isolated issues with the TSA, airline travel remained relatively unaffected during the partial shutdown. Unfortunately, there were some accidents during these semi-normal operations. Some resulted in fatalities, an eventuality that would normally prompt immediate and thorough investigation.
With the furlough of the more than 90 percent of the NTSB's staff, many of these investigations never started. Furthermore, the agency stopped working on over 1800 investigations of past aviation incidents.
Among the uninvestigated events were 15 accidents that resulted in 21 deaths. There were some crashes addressed during the time period in question, but with significant delay.
The agency stated that some crucial evidence may no longer exist at the 15 unexamined accident sites. It would be difficult to accurately predict how this could affect the establishment of probable cause or other essential steps in the justice process.
The NTSB plans to work through these recent investigations, as well as the highway and rail accidents that occurred over the same time period. The question now is what might happen to the families of those affected in these deadly crashes.
Source: "Working Through Shutdown Backlog, NTSB Warns Accident Evidence May Be Lost" Matthew S. Schwartz. January 29, 2019.