U.S. Marines caused multiple errors in a December 8, 2008 crash of F/A-18D Hornet into a residential neighborhood in University City that killed 36-year-old Young Mi Moon; her daughters, 15-month-old Grace and 2-month-old Rachel; and her mother Suk Im Kim, 60. According to this Associated Press news report the Marines apparently knew five months before this military jet crash that the aircraft may have problems with the fuel delivery from tanks to its engine. This ignored warning and subsequent bad decisions caused the terrible tragedy.

According to an internal investigation, low oil pressure killed the first engine shortly after takeoff. The jet crashed with about 340 gallons of fuel causing a fiery explosion that burned two homes and came frighteningly close to a high school. Although the Marines received this warning about the defective aircraft months before the catastrophic crash, maintenance personnel became complacent after a series of flights that were successful even after the warning, the investigation found.

Military investigators have placed the blame on officers at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar for clearing the pilot, Lt. Dan Neubauer, to land at the inland base instead of the closest landing at a coastal Navy base, a route that would have avoided flying over homes. The pilot, Neubauer, has also been criticized for neglecting to consult a checklist of emergency procedures and “failing to grasp the severity of his problems.” This investigation ended with disciplinary action against 13 members of the U.S. Marines and Navy for a series of missteps that led to the crash, including four officers who were relieved of their duties. Investigators, however, found no proof of criminal wrongdoing.

The liability issues are straight-forward in this case. The military investigation has clearly shown that this tragic airplane crash was caused by the negligence of the U.S. Marine and Navy Supervisors who knew they were dealing with a defective aircraft, but did nothing to stop this aircraft from being used. There is no question that the Marine Corps is responsible for the damages and fatal injuries caused. The victims’ family, if they have not done so already, would be well advised to retain the services of an experienced California personal injury attorney who will look at all aspects of this case and hold the negligent parties responsible. Since this accident also occurred as a result of a defective aircraft, the company that designed and/or manufactured the aircraft could be held liable.

The claim against the United States for such an incident must be properly filed within two years of the accident. Such a claim must be accompanied by relevant supporting documentation such as medical reports, an itemized list of medical or funeral expenses, lost wages and other economic damages claimed. The claim should also set out specific damage amounts that will serve as the ceiling for the victims’ ultimate recovery from the U.S. government. This is why an attorney representing these victims must make a thorough evaluation of damages before presenting their claim. The government will usually have six months to act upon the claim and if the claim is rejected, the claimants will have six months from that date to file a lawsuit. The victim’s family should be careful and not give any statements to anyone or talk to investigators or adjusters or sign any documents until they are represented by a skilled personal injury lawyer. The best personal injury attorneys will provide a free and comprehensive consultation and will not charge any fees until the case is concluded. Our firm would be pleased to provide a free consultation to this family or other victims of such tragic accidents.