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A Miracle Today, a Potential Mess Tomorrow: Liability and the Navy Jet Crash in Virginia Beach

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Even more amazing and welcome than the April 7, 2012, announcement that Virginia Beach, VA, fire and rescue crews found no fatalities in the wreckage of the Mayfair Mews apartment buildings all but destroyed in the previous day's crash of a U.S. Navy F/A-18D jet was the practically unbelievable news that only seven people suffered minor injuries from the accident.

The trainee pilot and his instructor both ejected from the doomed aircraft. Their concussions, cuts and scrapes kept them in the hospital for only a few hours. The other casualties, according to the Virginian-Pilot were an EMT who twisted a knee, a police officer who fell while climbing over debris, a bystander who fainted and two people who needed treatment for smoke inhalation.

No deaths in Navy F/A-18D crash: wavy.com

Plane crashes rarely take such a small toll on life and limb, and Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell is calling the lack of deaths and serious injuries a "Good Friday miracle."

Virginia Beach Navy jet crash aftermathBut as many as 100 mostly senior and low-income residents are suddenly homeless. The property damage — from household possessions to cars and roadways — is beyond extensive. The cost of the cleanup, repairs and replacements has yet to be calculated, but there is no doubt someone will be on the hook for tens of millions of dollars.

Who that someone will be is unclear right now and also likely to vary from case to case. The Navy is accepting damage claims from all people affected by the accident online and through the mail at Office of the Judge Advocate General, Tort Claims Unit Norfolk, 9620 Maryland Avenue, Suite 205, Norfolk, VA 23511-2949.

Some apartment residents will no doubt file claims against renter's insurance policies, and owners of nearby townhouses surely have property policies. Auto insurance covers just about any damage to a vehicle, but explaining to a claims agent that a "Navy Hornet hit it" may be awkward.

The civilians hospitalized following the crash should certainly use their own insurance to ensure prompt and easy payment for medical services. Later, they should later contact the Navy about receiving reimbursement for out-of-pocket expenses and repayment to their private insurers.

Whether the property management company that owns Mayfair Mews, the City of Virginia Beach, VA, or the manufacturer(s) of the jet equipment that failed and caused the crash will also bear liability also remains to be seen.

Everyone affected by the Virginia Beach Navy jet crash is sure to have unanswered questions, particularly regarding U.S. government liability. Injury and property claims filed by private citizens against federal government agencies and officials alleging negligence fall under the Federal Tort Claims Act, or FTCA. People with extensive injury or property claims should at least consider speaking with a lawyer about their legal rights to receive compensation.

EJL

About the Editors: The Shapiro, Lewis & Appleton personal injury law firm, which has offices in Virginia (VA) and North Carolina (NC), edits the injury law blogs Virginia Beach Injuryboard, Norfolk Injuryboard and Northeast North Carolina Injuryboard as pro bono services.