Of the many fears of the American public, experiencing an airplane crash is probably right up there with drowning and public speaking. The new security measures taken in airports as a result of the 9/11 terrorist attacks do very little to ease travelers into feeling safe. In addition to dealing with personal fears, airlines may be liable for personal injury claims in the event a passenger is harmed while traveling.
The Federal Aviation Act governs many aspects of the airline industry, including the safety specifications for any aircraft operated in the United States. Within the FAA is the Civil Aeronautics Board. Under this Board airlines can declare liability limits on a per person basis. Typically this declaration is only relevant in the instance of ordinary negligence by the air carrier, not for willful and wanton negligence. Focusing on higher levels of negligence is a way to circumvent the insurance liability limit declarations. The Act itself does not create a cause of action for pursuing negligence claims against an air carrier. If a person was injured as a result of travel with an air carrier, they will still need to pursue a negligence claim under their state’s laws.
Because air travel often involves international travel, there are some protections for flying overseas. The Warsaw Convention of 1929 provides limits on international flights to persons injured on those flights of $75,000. Under the convention, a plaintiff can sue in one of four venues: 1) the place where the ticket was purchased 2) the destination place of the flight 3) the country where the airline was incorporated 4) the country of the principle place of business for the airline. As with the FAA, the Warsaw Convention limits do not apply in the event the conduct of the airline was wanton or willfully negligent or reckless.
For claims against private personal airplanes it is best to check the laws of your particular state. In Illinois, a person injured in the private airplane of another and was a guest (meaning not charged) on the plane must show wanton or willful conduct in order to recover for personal injury claims. Some states allow a private owner of an airplane to be vicariously liable for any negligence that results.
Items that fall from airplanes and hit others are liable under strict liability for any resulting injuries.
The typical personal injury cases with airlines include personal bodily injury, wrongful death, or a products liability claim. This will be handled under specific state laws as to how to establish the elements of each claim. In general, the airline can be vicariously liable for the actions of any employees or pilots for their negligence. Thus, if a pilot was in error in a rough landing that caused an injury, the airline that employs her will also be liable.
This article is for general informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice. Do not rely on the above information as all cases are different and different laws apply to different cases. Consult an attorney in your area for further guidance. If you were injured in an accident involving an air carrier please call one of our attorneys atDavid K. Kremin & Associates, and we will give you a free consultation. We never charge unless we collect for you. Please call 1(800) ASK-A-LAWYER or 1(800)275-2529.