Aviation Disaster Family Assistance Act
The Aviation Disaster Family Assistance Act of 1996 (ADFAA) is a federal transportation law designed to provide the families of those killed in a domestic airline disaster to receive the information, support and counseling they may require in the immediate aftermath. Learn more about our Domestic Airline Crash practice.
The bill was drafted in reaction to a series of tragedies, ValuJet Flight 592 and TWA Flight 800, which both crashed within months of each other in 1996. Following the events, family members of those aboard received very little information or assistance and experienced what many considered callous behavior from the airlines. In fact, congressional testimony revealed similar behavior during the PanAm Flight 103 disaster over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988.
According to the law, airlines are required to notify families as quickly as possible and set up a toll-free number that they can call for information. Airlines must also provide transportation to the site of the accident and offer grief support in whatever form the family requests, whether it’s with a professional psychologist or a member of the clergy.
In conjunction with the airlines, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is designated to work with state, local and volunteer agencies to offer support to the surviving victims and the families of those lost by:
- Setting up a family assistance center.
- Providing crisis counseling services for any family member.
- Beginning the process of victim identification and the return of personal effects.
- Conducting daily briefings with investigative updates.
And finally, with respect to grieving families, attorneys are prohibited from soliciting their services to victims’ families for no less than forty-five days from the date of the disaster.
This assistance program was expanded a year later to give the same support following disasters involving non-U.S. airlines with the Foreign Air Carrier Family Support Act of 1998.
A similar bill, the Rail Passenger Disaster Family Assistance Act of 2008, was passed to provide the same services to those affected by major accidents involving Amtrak or other passenger trains.