Can Injured Airline Passengers Pursue Compensation?

Nearly 40 passengers aboard Air Canada Flight 33 from Vancouver to Sydney, Australia, were injured this month when their aircraft hit a period of sudden, severe turbulence over the Pacific Ocean. The flight was diverted to Honolulu, Hawaii, where 30 passengers were taken to hospital including nine in serious condition. It is not yet known whether anyone aboard the flight will seek compensation for their injuries, but if they do, a personal injury lawyer may be able to help.

Compensation for Injuries on Commercial Flights

The first thing a personal injury lawyer will consider when working on a commercial flight case is whether the flight was domestic (flying from one Canadian destination to another) or international (flying between Canada and another country). While claims for injuries on domestic flights can be pursued through standard channels, international flights are governed by the Montreal Convention, a treaty agreed to by Canada and dozens of other nations.

There are two levels of compensation available under the Montreal Convention. The first, capped at $100,000 in Special Drawing Rights or roughly $180,000 in Canadian dollars, covers incidents where neither the airline nor the aircraft staff were negligent. Air Canada Flight 33 falls into this category – you can’t control turbulence!

The second level covers aircraft injuries caused by negligence. Compensation in these cases may be much higher, but only if the plaintiff can prove that negligence has occurred. That means establishing that the airline or aircraft staff acted outside of what would be considered reasonable in the situation.

“They’re all held to the standard of what a reasonable pilot would do, or what a reasonable airline would do, or what a reasonable stewardess or a flight attendant would do,” one personal injury lawyer told Global News. “They have to engage in some conduct that’s outside of normal rules.”

Plaintiffs should also be aware that they may share liability for their injuries.

“They might have a harder time being successful in the lawsuit and getting any compensation if they weren’t following all of the rules or any specific instructions that had been given to them by the airline staff,” a second lawyer explained.

Finally, it should be noted the Montreal Convention does not cover punitive damages or compensation for mental or psychiatric injuries.

If you have been injured in an aircraft incident or any other type of accident, contact Will Davidson LLP to arrange a free, no-obligation consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer. Our team can provide guidance and advice as you consider your legal options.

Image credit: BriYYZ/Wikimedia Commons

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