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Know your rights if you are injured in-flight

Travel lawyer outlines legal options for injured airline passengers

Posted on 05 August 2016

A leading travel lawyer has expressed concerns about the rising number of seemingly minor, but often painful, debilitating and stressful accidents that occur whilst passengers are embarking/disembarking and in-flight to and from their chosen destinations.

Clare Campbell from law firm Leigh Day says, “Aeroplanes today are extremely safe and major aviation catastrophes are statistically very rare. Unfortunately, with the number of people travelling by air continuing to increase, smaller accidents causing injury do happen and as we move into the height of the British Summer and the holiday season gets into full swing, the number of accidents is highly likely to rise.

“Those who incur personal injury while travelling by aircraft are often left confused and may believe that they have no recourse as their injuries have happened during take off and landing or whilst in-flight. Injuries caused during air travel can be painful, severe, and can most certainly ruin holidays. Those who suffer personal injury during travel by air should not be deterred from claiming compensation and should be aware that the law is on their side.”

Campbell points to a powerful multilateral treaty called the Montreal Convention 1999, which provides those injured by/during air travel with the right to claim compensation from airlines. Article 33 of the Montreal Convention provides that injured persons are entitled to claim compensation in their home countries, no matter where the injury occurred.

What can you claim for?

Article 17 of the Montreal Convention protects passengers by providing that airlines are liable for death or bodily injury of a passenger upon the condition that the accident that caused the death or injury took place on board the aircraft or while embarking/disembarking. UK Courts have also ruled in a case involving British Airways, that “an accident is a distinct event, not having been any part of the usual, normal and expected operation of the aircraft.”

Commented Campbell, “if a passenger has been injured during air travel by anything that is out of the norm, then the airline is strictly liable. There is actually no need to prove that the airline has been negligent.”

She added, “potential accidents include instances where planes collide with terminals during docking, when heavy baggage falls from overhead lockers onto passengers, accidents caused by strong turbulence, or even accidents as simple as hot drinks being spilled or slipping while disembarking the aircraft. Indeed my own travel law team here at Leigh Day is currently dealing with three cases where laptop computers have fallen out of overhead lockers and injured passengers.”

The time period in which claims for personal injury need to be brought under the Montreal Convention is shorter than the usual time period under the Law of England and Wales. Those seeking to make a claim through the Montreal Convention must be prompt and bring their claim within two years of any injury.

Said Clare Campbell in conclusion, “As a solicitor who specialises in injuries, illness and fatalities on aeroplanes, I advise those injured in-flight to know your rights.”