I want to claim compensation for an accident on board an airplane for being hit on the head by a bottle which fell from an overhead locker. How can I prove that the accident was caused by negligence?

Eoin P. Campbell, LL.B., Solicitor

Editor in Chief

Eoin P. Campbell

A claim for compensation for an accident on board an airplane is not governed by the same legislation as an accident which occurs on the ground in Ireland. Although a claim for personal injury compensation would normally require the accident victim to be able to establish and prove that an injury resulted directly from the negligence of a third party, this is not the case for an accident which occurs on board an aeroplane.

Air travel is covered by international claims law; specifically the Montreal Convention. Under this convention, as part of the conditions of carriage, the operator of an airplane must assume responsibility for any accident which occurs on board – which includes accidents in the air, accidents while taxiing or while passengers are boarding or alighting. This means that the accident victim does not need to prove that an accident was caused by third party negligence when making an airplane accident claim in order to successfully recover compensation for personal injuries.

This should therefore mean that you are entitled to make a claim for an accident on board an airplane, provided that the accident and any injuries which were sustained were not primarily your fault. If your actions were the main cause of the injury being sustained, a claim for an accident on board an airplane will not be possible. Other factors which can prevent you from being able to make a claim include a failure to record the accident in the airlines accident book report or if you did not seek medical attention for your injuries from a doctor.

Without the need to prove negligence, airplane accident victims may consider making a claim for compensation for an accident on board an airplane directly with the Injuries Board, without the assistance of a personal injury solicitor. However there are considerable benefits to be gained by allowing a personal injury solicitor to pursue airplane accident compensation on your behalf. How much compensation for an accident on board an airplane you may receive could be increased when a solicitor assists with a claim, and a solicitor will also try to obtain a settlement directly from the airline to accelerate the compensation process.

Since any accident on board an aeroplane which results in an injury to a passenger is likely to see the insurance company of the airline having to pay airplane accident compensation to the victim, it is not unusual for the insurance company to contact the victim directly with an offer of compensation. This is a tactic called third party capture, and it is a method of limiting the amount of compensation that an insurance company has to pay to an accident victim. Should an offer of compensation be forthcoming, it is important that you first check with a personal injury solicitor before accepting to ensure it is appropriate and fair. Simply because an offer is made, it does not mean it will be for your full entitlement to compensation nor reflect the seriousness of your injuries.