In-Flight Personal Injuries

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Each year, millions of people use air travel as an alternative to driving or taking a train.  And, while flying for most people is a safe experience - especially when compared to traveling by automobile - personal injuries can and do happen.  From minor injuries caused by falling luggage, to more serious head and neck injuries suffered during turbulence, if you have been injured while traveling on an airplane it is important to know your potential rights and remedies.  

What is the Leading Cause of In-Flight Injuries?

The most common cause of all in-flight injuries to airline passengers is turbulence.  An airplane can encounter turbulence at any time and the result can range from brief, mild changes in altitude to extreme conditions in which the aircraft is violently tossed about.  Consequently, the possibility of passengers being injured varies depending on the nature of the turbulence.  In some cases, passengers may feel only slight strains against their seat belts while in other situations passengers and unsecured items alike may be thrown about the cabin causing more serious injuries.  

Who is Responsible for My In-Flight Injuries?

Depending on the circumstances of your injury, the airline or its employees may be held responsible.  Airlines and air carriers are held to a high standard of care for their passengers.  They are governed by the Federal Aviation Act, which does not create a federal cause of action, but does establish a certain standard of care.  

Although airlines do not insure your safety, they are responsible for even the slightest negligence on the part of their employees, and they are required to do all that is reasonably foreseeable under the circumstances to prevent injuries from happening.  For example, turbulence cannot always be anticipated by the pilot in advance.  However, if the pilot fails to check the weather conditions for your designated flight path, or decides not to delay your flight after learning that heavy turbulence is expected, then you may have a cause of action.  Keep in mind that your injury in and of itself is not enough to prove that the airline was negligent; there must be some minimum showing that the airline was at fault.

Airlines may not be the only source of liability if you sustained injuries during the flight.  The manufacturer, seller, or repairer of your aircraft or its equipment may be liable for any defects that cause a malfunction of the aircraft that lead to injury. In addition, the air traffic controller owes a duty of care to all passengers with respect to the operation of an air traffic control system.  For example, air traffic controllers may be held responsible if they see a dangerous situation or air pattern and fail to warn the pilot of it.

Should I Speak with an Attorney if I have Been Injured In-Flight?

Yes.  If you have sustained any injuries during a flight, you should consult an experienced personal injury attorney to learn more about preserving your rights and remedies.  An attorney will be able to explain the value of your case and help you navigate through the complex laws that govern airlines and aviation accidents. 

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Last Modified: 12-21-2011 12:03 PM PST

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