The nation was shocked and saddened by the recent crash landing of Asiana Airlines flight 241 in San Francisco. Images of the charred fuselage will remain emblazoned on the national consciousness for months, if not years. While the crash claimed the lives of two passengers, the other 305 passengers and crew made it out alive. Still, many of these passengers suffered serious physical injuries during the crash, such as broken bones, and tremendous emotional suffering, much of which has only just begun.
Most passengers injured in-flight do not sustain their injuries during crashes, as much more common events are responsible for the majority of airplane-related injuries. For example, an estimated 4,500 passengers are injured each year from falling baggage, which can suddenly drop from above due to poorly maintained overhead compartments. Falls on the way to and from the lavatory are also a major source of in-flight injuries, as are collisions with food carts, which may be inadvertently rammed into passengers or rolled over their feet. Additionally, unbelted passengers may be thrown from their seats due to particularly intense turbulence.
Airlines are not above the law
Depending on the circumstances of the injury, the airline may be liable when unsafe flight conditions result in harm to their customers. In accidents caused by the carelessness of the airline and its employees, passengers may recover on negligence claims. Since the airline qualifies, by law, as a common carrier, it must act with an extremely high duty of care to protect its passengers from potentially dangerous conditions. Passengers who are injured because of an airline’s failure to meet this standard of care may be eligible for damages to compensate them for their injuries.
Other responsible parties
In addition to the airline, the Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) may be liable for the negligence of its employees. For instance, the FAA may be responsible for an air traffic controller who permits planes to collide on the runway, even at low speeds, causing passengers to fall. Finally, when defective parts of the aircraft itself are responsible for accidents, manufacturers may be liable for passengers’ injuries.
When in-flight injuries have derailed a vacation or delayed a business trip, passengers need strong legal advocates to fight for their rights.