If you have traveled by plane, you have likely experienced some air turbulence. Airplane turbulence can be negligible, such as feeling slight bumps, or it can be severe. Clear air turbulence can cause the plane to sink in mid-flight, usually no more than 100 feet. Most turbulence is minor, and injury is not very common. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) says about 58 fliers are injured per year.
Sudden jolts from turbulence can cause overhead bins to open unexpectedly, sometimes spilling the contents onto passengers beneath. Food and beverage carts are also known for causing severe injury during turbulence. For passengers who are not wearing their safety belts, air turbulence can cause minor or severe damage.
What Are Some Common In-Flight Injuries?
Head injuries are common in-flight injuries to turbulence. Head injuries can be serious, whether the injury occurs from falling luggage or from losing balance. Food and beverage carts may be uplifted and land on crew members or passengers near the vicinity.
Potential bruises, broken bones, sprained ankles, and other injuries may happen, especially in clear air turbulence. The best way to prevent injury is to stay seated and adhere to the Captain’s seat belt notification.
What Legal Claims Do I Have?
If you have been hurt by in-flight turbulence, you may have negligence and aviation product liability claims. Both the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the airline itself have a responsibility to keep passengers safe. If that duty is breached and you were injured, as a result, you may be able to sue for negligence.
The airline and the plane manufacturer may also be responsible for any defective or erroneously made airplane parts. For example, if a defective latch on a lavatory cabinet caused it to fly open and it hurt a passenger, the airline or the manufacturer may be liable.
An “Act of God” is an occurrence that will not hold individuals or entities responsible for what it caused. Turbulence is considered an Act of God. Nevertheless, there may be a liability if a foreseeable negligent act, e.g., not securing an overhead bin, causes harm because of the turbulence.
In a legal context, an “Act of God” generally refers to an occurrence that involves a natural disaster. Much like a natural disaster, an Act of God is any natural incident considered beyond a person’s command, is hard to predict, and would be difficult to quantify in terms of subsequent damages.
Some examples of natural disaster calamities that would most likely constitute an Act of God include the following:
- Volcanic eruptions; and
- Various other weather-related events.
These provisions may even appear as a “Force Majeure” clause in some instances. Regardless of which term is used, they both carry the same meaning.
Concerning contracts, insurance policies, and other legal instruments, incorporating these provisions can serve to eliminate liability if an unpreventable or natural disaster happens and stops the parties from being able to perform their legal duties. In most examples, an Act of God provision will excuse both parties from their duties.
There would be one exception, however, if the parties negotiated for special conditions as to when the provision only applies to one of the parties and not the other that is signing the legal document; hence, why it is so vital to guarantee that an Act of God clause is written in clear and straightforward language. If not, a party may be held legally liable for damages beyond their control.
Therefore, it would be in your best interest to consult a local contract attorney or personal injury lawyer about legal instruments that contain Act of God or Force Majeure provisions. A lawyer will be able to advise you when an Act of God clause may be triggered and can recommend other types of conditions that you may want to include or be on alert for in the next contract that you sign.
How Can I Recover Damages from an Act of God?
Suppose an individual has sustained injuries or damages due to an event that may be classified as an Act of God or fall under such a provision. In that case, an insurance company may potentially be willing to pay for some of the damages incurred.
On the other hand, just because a natural disaster accident may have been caused by what is deemed an Act of God event does not necessarily mean that there may not be someone else whom a person can hold accountable for the damages they incurred. This is why parties in these cases must examine all of the facts of a natural disaster accident to see if there are any people they can hold legally responsible.
Should I Contact the Federal Aviation Administration?
If you know of any threat to the safety of others, you should report it to the FAA and the airline. It’s essential to make it clear to the airline that you suffered an injury and give them a chance to respond. If it were the fault of the airline or its crew, the company would be more likely to settle and compensate you for any medical bills you might have incurred.
What Are Compensatory Damages in a Personal Injury Claim?
Personal injury claims are legal actions where a person has suffered physical, mental, or emotional injuries or property damages. These losses typically start from some accident. If the injured party files a claim or lawsuit, they will generally be requesting some form of financial compensation from the party responsible for causing the accident. These are also known as compensatory damages, as they compensate the receiver for the injuries they suffered.
When Are You Awarded Compensatory Damages?
As stated above, compensatory damages are normally awarded to restore the injured individual or party (the “plaintiff”) to their position before the harm or loss happened. Therefore, compensatory damages are awarded in cases where damages, injury, or loss have occurred.
Generally speaking, there are two main types of compensatory damage awards: Special damages and general damages.
Special damages are intended to restore the injured party to their position before the harm or injury occurs. This typically includes damages that can be computed, such as medical expenses, property damage, loss of wages or earnings, and other quantifiable losses.
General damages may be awarded for losses not easily determined through monetary calculations. These can include losses connected with emotional distress, defamation, or loss of consortium or companionship.
State regulations may differ concerning compensatory damages. Some states may place limitations on compensatory damages, particularly general damages.
What Do I Need to Prove to Get Compensatory Damages?
The plaintiff must demonstrate several parts of their claim to receive compensatory damages. In most circumstances, they will be required to prove that a loss has occurred and was caused by the other party (the defendant). They must demonstrate that the defendant’s conduct caused the loss or injury.
Do I Need a Lawyer?
If you have been hurt due to airplane turbulence, you should contact a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. An experienced lawyer will be able to help you build your case, provide advice throughout the legal process, and represent your best interests in court.