Serious in-flight injuries occurring from airplanes are actually very rare, but they do happen. Imagine being excited about taking a trip and going on a ride in an airplane, and it just so happens that this flight is one that causes you grief and injury due to an unsightly accident. There are many accidents that can happen way up in the air that you might not even think of before you make a trip – these can include baggage falling from an overhead bin, a slip and fall that occurs on the way to a restroom area, and even severe turbulence. The question on the matter is: Who can be held liable for these injuries?
To understand some things, some statistics can be helpful. According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), turbulence incidents involving U.S. airlines were blamed for 3 deaths, 76 serious injuries, and nearly 1,000 minor injuries over the years 1981 to 1998. Every year, turbulence costs airlines hundreds of millions of dollars in payments for injuries, damage to the aircraft, and revenue that is lost when planes become out of service for their repairs. Steering clear of turbulence and completely avoiding it is actually harder than it sounds – pilots have no indication of the disturbed air that comes from it until they are flying through it!
Common Causes of In-Flight Injuries
- Luggage falling out of overhead bins, which injures approximately 4,500 each year
- Rolling food carts
- Passengers suffering injuries due to bumping into objects while going to the bathroom
- Bumpy rides causing unbelted passengers to be thrown from seats
In some cases, accidents may have been caused by carelessness or inattention of an employee like a pilot or maintenance worker. In a standard negligence claim, the plaintiff must be able to prove that the law required the defendant to be reasonably careful and that not being careful caused the plaintiff to become injured. Airlines are known as “common carriers”, which means that there is a heightened duty of care required by them. They must be able to protect passengers from any potential harm throughout any of the airline process, like boarding the plane or getting off after the flight. There must be policies in place that adequately protect the passengers from any harm.
Things can get complicated when turbulence or an “act of god” takes place. Airlines are not liable for these types of accidents because they are unforeseen events of nature that cannot be prevented under any circumstance. A good example of an “act of god” is turbulence, since it cannot be anticipated. However, there are some situations in which turbulence wouldn’t be seen as an “act of god” in an in-court injury claim. Sometimes, a flight crew was able to predict turbulence and failed to warn passengers to fasten their seat belts. If injuries occur in a situation like this and it can be proven, then the airline will be held liable. Human error really comes into play if a plaintiff wants their case to be successful. A pilot holds a special duty to check weather conditions for the designated flight path and try to predict turbulence as best as possible. If high amounts are expected on the flight, then employees may be required to alter or even delay the flight significantly.
If you have been injured in an in-flight injury, you may want to contact the Federal Aviation Administration, which you can do by calling their toll-free number at 866-835-5322. They will be able to aid you in reporting travel problems, concerns, and complaints that may include safety issues. If this is not help enough and injuries have been sustained, you should call a personal injury attorney that you can trust. Call WTW today for a consultation!