Claiming Injury Compensation from an Airline
Fortunately aircraft accidents are rare and solicitors are not often called upon to help clients with claiming injury compensation from an airline; however, as there are many differences between the process of claiming compensation for an injury from an airline and how most personal injury claims in Ireland are dealt with, and it is in your best interests to discuss the circumstances of your aircraft accident with an experienced Irish solicitor at the earliest practical opportunity.
Common Accidents which Qualify for Injury Compensation from an Airline
The most common causes of accidents on an aircraft are overhead luggage compartments. During periods of high turbulence luggage can shift inside overhead compartments, doors can open, and luggage may fall down into the cabin and the passengers seated below. Duty Free bottles, sharp-edged suitcases, heavy laptops and other luggage items can cause serious injuries to passengers – especially children.
Turbulence by itself can also be responsible for an aircraft injury. If the plane suddenly drops, the body becomes momentarily weightless and injuries can occur from collision with the side or roof of the plane -even with seatbelts fastened. The seriousness of some injuries can actually be exacerbated by being seated in a highly restricted position and, without being able to rapidly move, spilled hot drinks can cause serious burns. When walking in the aisle, dropped toys, bag handles and other passenger belongings can represent tripping hazards and, when walking through the plane, passengers tend to concentrate on using the seats for support rather than looking at the floor. Trips, slips and falls on an aircraft due to tripping hazards then become far more likely.
Can I Claim Injury Compensation from an Airline?
The Montreal Convention 1999 stipulates that any accident which leads to an injury while travelling on a plane is the responsibility of the airline company – who accepts liability for injuries as a condition of carriage. They are liable to pay injury compensation to cover any injury sustained during a flight and therefore – from embarkation to disembarkation – any injury sustained will entitle you to claim injury compensation from an airline.
With liability for injuries accepted by the airline company, usually all that a claimant is required to prove is that an accident occurred on board the aircraft and an injury was sustained as a result. Unlike other personal injury claims in Ireland, the claimant does not have to prove that the airline was negligent when making an injury compensation claim to an airline. However there are exceptions within the Montreal Convention which may exclude you from claiming injury compensation from an airline.
Illnesses triggered by flying – such as deep vein thrombosis – are not covered under the Montreal Convention and compensation for injuries which are self-inflicted or wholly due to the actions of a passenger cannot be claimed from an airline. A claim to an airline for injury compensation in which the claimant was partly responsible for their injuries are subject to the guidelines concerning contributory negligence.
Airline Injuries and Contributory Negligence
If the actions or behaviour of the claimant have in some way increased the risk of sustaining an injury, the airline or insurer will attempt to reduce how much compensation for an airline injury is paid because of the claimant´s own negligence. For example, if the fasten seatbelt sign was illuminated due to turbulence and a passenger ignored the warning and sustained an injury, the airline company would argue that the airline had fulfilled its obligation to safety, and the injuries sustained were partly – at least – due to the claimant´s lack of care. Compensation for an airline injury may consequently be adjusted to reflect any contributory negligence of the claimant.
Reporting an Accident and Injury
As with any personal injury claim, it is imperative to document the accident and injuries sustained if you intend claiming injury compensation from an airline. You need to record the details of any witnesses to the accident, a record needs to be made in the airline company´s “Accident Book” and you must visit a hospital or your GP for a thorough examination as soon as possible after landing. You need to take photographs of your injuries and you should contact an experienced Irish injury compensation solicitor for advice. Although negligence does not have to be proved when you are claiming compensation for an injury from an airline, obtaining the full entitlement to compensation can be difficult in some cases and especially if you have to deal with an airline company´s insurers while you are still recovering from your injury.
Special and General Damages from an Airline Company
The Montreal Convention and its subsequent incorporation into Irish law has meant that it is possible to claim injury compensation from an airline for both physical injuries and psychological problems which are the direct result of an accident on n aircraft. Both of these factors are covered by the general damages that are awarded as part of an airline injury compensation settlement and will result in an amount of compensation being attributed for your pain and suffering and any loss of amenity -the deterioration in your quality of life which is attributable to your injuries.
Special damages are awarded to cover expenses and costs which have been incurred due to your injury and that can be quantified. Special damages can include transportation costs in pursuit of a medical examination – for example if your accident happened on an outbound flight – medical treatment costs, home care costs, and any subsequent loss of earnings. If your injury is sustained on an outbound journey, it is advisable to pay for any medical treatment with a credit card and receipts should be kept for all expenses that you wish to recover when claiming injury compensation from an airline.
Third Party Capture and Offers of Settlement
Airline injury compensation settlements can vary enormously – and can even be pursued in countries outside of Ireland if it is likely that your injury compensation claim to an airline will have a more favourable outcome. The airline company´s insurers will almost certainly be promptly notified of any injury due to the high probability that it will lead to a claim for airline injury compensation and some “proactive” insurance companies may contact an injured passenger in a similarly rapid fashion to offer a quick resolution to the problem with an offer of early settlement for damages.
When faced with an offer of compensation, the injured party may make a decision to accept a settlement without first having sought legal advice and not get the full amount of airline injury compensation that they are entitled to. If a settlement is accepted before the injuries have had a chance to fully develop, before the consequences of the injury have become fully apparent and before a full assessment has been conducted by an experienced Irish solicitor, settlements may only be a fraction of the airline injury compensation which the injured party is eligible to claim.
The Statute of Limitations and Deadlines for Making a Claim
A claim to an airline for injury compensation has to be made within the same timeframe as other personal injury claims in Ireland – two years – even if the claim is being pursued overseas in a country with an extended Statute of Limitations. Therefore, when claiming injury compensation from an airline, it is in your best interests to discuss the circumstances of your accident on board an aircraft with a solicitor at the first practical opportunity.
Depending on the circumstances of your accident, the countries between which you were travelling and the country where the airline company is based, your solicitor will advise you whether you claim for injury compensation to an airline should be submitted to the Injuries Board Ireland for assessment or if an alternative is available which will increase the size of your airplane injury compensation settlement and enable you to receive it in a shorter period of time.