Kreindler & Kreindler LLP has been retained by passengers of Continental Airlines Flight 1404, which crashed during an attempted take-off at Denver's International Airport. Our focus has been on the brake and tire system; potential asymmetrical engine thrust; as well as possible strong winds. Other possible causes such as icing, runway condition or maintenance cannot be ruled out at this stage. With good data available on the "black boxes" (the flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder) we can reasonably expect additional information regarding what caused Flight 1404 to run off the runway in the near future.
The fact that less than forty passengers suffered various degrees of physical injury and that no one was killed in an accident of this magnitude - with the plane splitting apart and a post-crash fire - is miraculous. While investigators search for causes of the crash, crashworthiness and survival issues should also be carefully considered. Passenger reports that seats inside the aircraft came loose or buckled during this survivable crash, possibly causing injuries, may well highlight a more critical and persistent problem that the aviation industry has yet to properly address. That is, survivability in such foreseeable runway accidents. There is no reason seats should become potentially injury-causing devices inside the cabin. Seat design and seat-belt technology is at a level where seats should stay fixed; passengers should be safely contained in their seats; and airbag technology should be available to further protect passengers.
Even some small private propeller planes now come equipped with airbags built into the seatbelt system which affords a significant level of protection in runway takeoff and landing accidents where the passenger is suddenly thrust forward as the plane slows down rapidly, and even violently sometimes. The airbag inside the seatbelt system automatically deploys in such a situation much like a car airbag providing an increased level of safety to the passengers.
Finally, maintenance must be closely reviewed. If maintenance is implicated here, special consideration must be given to the impact our current economic environment may be having on our airlines. Efforts must be undertaken to ensure that airlines are not giving into "cost cutting" pressures when it comes to maintenance just to save on the bottom line.
Kreindler & Kreindler has represented thousands of families and victims of airplane crashes, including several families of the November, 1987 crash of Continental Airlines Flight 1713 at the Denver Stapleton Airport. That case has some broad similarities with this most recent crash. Continental Airlines Flight 1713 managed to get its wheels off the ground, but was unable to remain airborne and stalled moments after leaving the runway because of an ice accumulation on the wing surfaces. As a result of that accident industry-wide de-icing protocols were made much stricter thus advancing aviation safety and protecting lives.
Lessons to be learned from the crash of Flight 1713 and 1404 are that the aviation industry should not wait for deaths to occur before safety initiatives are undertaken that will save lives.
Kreindler & Kreindler has represented dozens of families involved in other similar-type incidents where catastrophic airplane accidents were narrowly avoided. In 1995, we represented families onboard American Airlines flight 58 which flew into a thunderstorm. At trial in 1997, a New York jury awarded our 13 clients over $2 million dollars, including $150,000 each to those with solely emotional distress.
On December 26, 2005, Alaska Airlines flight 536 experienced an in-flight explosive decompression of the cabin when a hole developed in the fuselage at 26,000 feet causing the air to be sucked out of the cabin. Claims on behalf of the 39 passengers we represented, most of whom were not physically injured, were settled for confidential amounts.
Kreindler & Kreindler also represented families involved in two other recent runway accidents involving Southwest Airlines where the same 737 model aircraft, as in the Denver crash, ran off the runway. One in Burbank California in 2000 and another in Chicago in December 2005. Those cases were also settled for confidential amounts.