Injuries on an airline aren’t common. In 2018, the NTSB reported a total of 1,335 accidents. Of those accidents, there were only 408 fatalities. That includes commercial flights, private flights, and general aviation. If you look at the accident rates for commercial flights, it’s low at approximately 3 per 10,000 flights. That doesn’t mean it will never happen to you.
Accidents range from planes that slide off icy runways to planes with malfunctions that need to make emergency landings. Accidents can also occur when a plane hits turbulence. Items like food carts and baggage from overhead compartments get tossed around and hit passengers. Another passenger may become drunk and hit another passenger. An emotional support animal may act up and bite another passenger.
If you’re in an airplane accident, you may wonder if you can file a lawsuit. The answer is it depends. Laws and airline policies may limit what you can do. Here are the facts you should know about what to do if you’re in an airline crash or are injured in some way when you’re taking a flight.
Your Rights Under the Montreal Convention
The International Civil Aviation Organization developed a treaty that’s governed by the Montreal Convention. This treaty offers these protections to international air passengers.
- Authorization to make advance payments within 15 days of the accident.
- The option to bring a lawsuit from the passenger’s location of residence.
- A guarantee that airlines and carriers have ample insurance coverage.
- Unlimited liability in the event of death or injury with increased limits if there’s a delay.
If airlines are proven to be at fault for an accident, Each injured passenger could be allowed a portion of a reserve fund known as “Special Drawing Rights” (SDRs). This fund is used for injuries, deaths, and lost baggage. For death or injury, passengers can claim up to 113,100 SDRs ($155,700 USD approx.) without having to prove that the airline was negligent. If your claim exceeds that amount, the airline has the right to a defense. You also have the right to request an advance payment to cover immediate expenses. This request must be at least 16,000 SDRs ($22,000 USD approx).
Your Rights on Domestic Flights
Domestic air passengers need to read their tickets for complete rules on the airline’s policies and ways to file a complaint. Rules are different when you’re on a domestic flight. Airlines have a duty of care to ensure you’re not injured. All airline staff, including grounds crew and flight attendants, have to take precautions to keep you safe. This includes setting a brake on a food cart or performing pre-flight inspections. Once you’re off the plane, the airline’s liability ends.
There are situations where the airline wouldn’t be to blame. If there is a collision with another plane on the runway, the air controller is to blame. That puts the liability in the FAA’s hands. If you’re injured in that collision, you’d sue the FAA. Being a government agency, you’d have to sue the government. Procedures are different and follow the Federal Tort Claims Act. You have to prove you were injured, prove the federal government employee was acting in his/her official work duties, and prove that employee’s negligence was the cause of your injuries.
Another example where the airline isn’t to blame is if defective equipment is to blame. For example, a plane crash in 1991 was found to be caused by a thrust reverser that wasn’t manufactured properly. The manufacturer was to blame for the faulty part.
With injuries on domestic flights, it has to be the airline’s fault. You cannot be partly responsible. If the “Fasten Seatbelts” sign is lit and you get up to go to the bathroom anyway, you didn’t obey the captain’s orders and are liable for your injuries.
To file a complaint, you have to prove your injuries, prove the airline or worker was to blame, and prove the negligence was the direct cause of your injuries. It’s a lot to handle when you’re keeping up with medical appointments, meeting deadlines for filing a complaint, and trying to move on with your life.
How Do You Get the Compensation You Deserve?
Don’t feel you have to try to figure out how to file airline accident claims alone. Carpenter, Zuckerman & Rowley are experienced personal injury attorneys with more than $1.5 billion in verdicts for their clients. The attorneys at CZR Law make sure you receive the medical treatments you need as well as a fair settlement from the airline. We’re available 24 hours a day. Call 1-888-CZR-FIRST for a free consultation.