Who Is Liable for In-Flight Injuries?
Passengers that suffer in-flight injuries may be entitled to compensation, but the injured party must prove that the airline was negligent and failed to exercise a proper standard of care.
Air travel is considered safer than traveling by car, but injuries do occur to in-flight passengers. They may be as minor as a sprained ankle or as serious as head trauma. With cramped quarters and limited space to move around, airline passengers encounter a variety of conditions that can lead to injury. The most common injuries occur from the following:
- Unexpected turbulence
- Falling luggage from overhead bins
- Slips, trips, and falls
- Moving food and beverage carts
- Malfunctioning equipment
- Contact with other passengers
Turbulence is the leading cause of in-flight injuries to passengers and flight attendants. Because it happens suddenly, passengers are instructed to keep seat belts fastened during flight, unless otherwise instructed by the flight crew. When seat belts are unfastened, passengers can be thrown out of their seats often hitting their heads on overhead bins or other hard surfaces. In some cases, turbulence is strong enough to cause whiplash, spinal injuries, and traumatic brain injuries (TBI). FAA reports show that most turbulence accidents occur at or above 30,000 feet.
Liability for Passenger Injuries
Commercial airline safety standards are regulated by the federal government. Under the Federal Aviation Act, passenger airlines are held to a high standard of care to protect passengers from injury during flight. Although commercial airlines can not ensure passenger safety, they are responsible for negligent actions on the part of their employees.
An airline must exercise vigilance in all aspects of aviation including flight operation, maintenance, inspection, loading, and boarding. The airline is responsible for safe boarding of passengers, clear aisles to restrooms and exits, safe operation of the aircraft, and monitoring weather conditions while en route. An airline’s duty of care to passengers ends once the passengers disembark from the aircraft.
When in-flight injuries occur, passenger injury cases can be complicated without a personal injury law firm or trial lawyer to prove negligence on the part of the airline. An airline can not be held liable for passenger injuries if they result from unforeseen events not caused by human error or an act of God. If a personal injury lawyer can prove that negligent actions caused a passenger’s injury, the airline may be held liable for medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering caused by the accident.