Office of the Attorney General
Attorney General Stumbo Cautions Lawyers Against Contacting Families of Flight 5191 Victims
Attorney General Greg Stumbo today cautioned all lawyers to respect the privacy of those who lost loved ones in the crash of Flight 5191 in Lexington on Sunday.
Citing the “Aviation Disaster Family Assistance Act of 1996,” Stumbo warned the legal community that grieving family members are protected from any unsolicited communication for 45 days following their loss.
“It’s not just the right and moral thing to do – it’s the law,” Stumbo said. “No attorney, or any representative or employee of an attorney, should intrude upon this very private and personal time of mourning.”
The federal law, set out at 49 United States Code Section 1136(g)(2) limits contact by lawyers and imposes a $1000 per day fine for violation:
“Unsolicited communications -- In the event of an accident involving an air carrier…no unsolicited communication concerning a potential action for personal injury or wrongful death may be made by an attorney (including any associate, agent, employee, or other representative of an attorney) or any potential party to the litigation to an individual injured in the accident, or to a relative of an individual involved in the accident, before the 45th day following the date of the accident.”
Stumbo points out that even after the 45 day Federal waiting period, lawyers must closely follow the Kentucky Rules of Professional Conduct, which forbids direct contact where the lawyer has no prior direct relationship with the prospective client (Kentucky Rules of Professional Conduct, Supreme Court Rule 3.130 (7.09)). These rules do not apply to contact initiated by victims’ families.
The Attorney General directed the public’s attention to the “Federal Family Assistance Plan for Aviation Disasters,” developed by the National Transportation Safety Board. “This plan is the basic document for organizing an effective response to this horrific tragedy,” Stumbo explained. “It details a variety of protections for victims’ families, including designation of a director of family support services and coordination of the emotional care and support of the families during this heartbreaking time.”
The Attorney General’s Office is contacting Kentucky Bar Association representatives to ensure compliance with the law. Stumbo has also put a link to the Federal Family Assistance Plan for Aviation Disasters on his website (www.ag.ky.gov).
“This gives the public ready access to the National Transportation Safety Board’s resources contained on its website,” Stumbo added.
The Attorney General’s website also has a direct link to the NTSB’s “Information for Friends and Family,” which contains readily accessible information regarding family assistance.
Federal Family Assistance Plan for Aviation Disasters:
NTSB brochure for families: