Can flight instructors be liable if a student has an accident?
Can flight instructors be held liable if a student has an accident and injures someone? This is a good question, and the answer isn’t “yes” or “no”. It really depends on if the instructor has taken precautions necessary to protect him or her and performed due diligence in their training methods.
There are very specific guidelines, as you can imagine, that a flight instructor must follow to ensure that their protegees practice safety and good judgment at all times when flying — both during training and after certification. In the event that a student has an accident and injures him or herself, or others, according to the author of General Aviation Law, the “flight instructor is the one who will answer both to the FAA and the civil courts as well.”
Sometimes it is common for an instructor to overlook or bypass certain regulations that they feel are less important. In a civil court, such as in a personal injury case resulting from an airplane accident, the court may find an instructor guilty of “negligent liability” if the teacher failed to provide thorough training following all of the Federal Aviation Regulations that are applicable.
Flight instructors can protect themselves by being conscientious about following the federal aviation regulations for training. For instance, using a syllabus helps the training take place in a specified order, helping to ensure nothing is missed. Instructors can also have trainees sign off on training activities each day. Written documentation and record-keeping of everyday training activities and progress can prove that an instructor did in fact provide the adequate training.
This type of information or lack of can be instrumental in aircraft disasters. If a pilot is negligent, the instructor may indeed be found at least partially liable if they failed to properly train the instructor.