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Air Travel Injuries & Your Rights as a Passenger

Air Travel Injuries & Your Rights as a Passenger

Spring is here, and that means vacation season is just around the corner! Whether you plan on getting away for spring break or taking a journey this summer, millions of people across the country will be heading to the airport in order to board a plane and get where they need to go. Air travel is a fast, convenient, and inexpensive way to reach distant destinations quickly and safely, however it’s not immune from its own collection of risks. Air travel injuries do happen, and if you’re injured on your journey you need to know what rights you have available to you.

Here are a few ways you could be injured during your journey and a brief explanation of air travel liability so you can better understand your case.

Types of In-Flight Injuries

When most people think of air travel injuries, their mind often goes straight to the worst possible cause: a devastating crash. This isn’t usually warranted—statistically, air travel is one of the safest forms of transportation in the world, with millions of people reaching their destinations every year without incident or issue. In fact the commercial air travel industry had a fatality-free year in 2017, and commercial airliner deaths are continually shrinking on average due to safety technology.

However, this doesn’t mean the industry is injury free. In fact, a number of injuries happen every year because of what happens on board the plane during the journey. Arguably the biggest offender: those convenient overhead storage bins. While they make a great place to stow your luggage during the trip, they are notorious for popping open when not shut correctly or during turbulent times in the air. An open bin could lead to the contents falling out and landing on someone, possibly causing head, neck, or other injuries.

Other reasons for injury could include a runaway beverage or food cart rolling down the aisle and striking a passenger or crew member, especially in the event of an unanticipated patch of turbulence. Other times people bump their foot or ankle into an obstacle while trying to navigate the narrow walkway while moving around the cabin or going or visit the restroom.

Negligence in Air Travel

If you are injured in an air travel accident, you may have a personal injury case you can bring against the airline itself. Airlines are responsible for your safety while you are on board the plane, and they are liable until you disembark at your destination. However, bringing a suit before them requires that the airline show “negligence” in their conduct that led to your injury, which is where things can get confusing. Airlines are required to give a “heightened duty of care” to passengers because of their status as a “common carrier.” However, if they adhered to this duty and you were still injured, they may not be responsible for compensating you.

Some examples of negligent behavior in air travel that could cause an injury includes things like leaving a drink or food cart unattended, allowing it to roll forward and collide with someone. Likewise, remember the overhead bins we discussed before? Airlines have a duty to check and thoroughly secure every overhead bin before takeoff to ensure they won’t fly open and allow the contents to spill out. Failing to do so or forgetting to make this check could be considered negligence.

However, what isn’t considered negligence are so-called “acts of god,” or incidents that are caused by unpredictable factors. We mentioned turbulence earlier—turbulence is often the result of unsettled air, usually from pressure differences or high winds. Turbulence is often nothing more than a few little minor bumps in the cabin, but can lead to some pretty serious tossing and jolting during the ride. While airlines have a duty to try and avoid turbulent air as much as possible, there are times where it can’t be helped or even foreseen.

Sudden turbulence causing an injury is something that airlines cannot be held liable for, purely because they were given no opportunity to avoid it. While they do have a duty to instruct you to return to your seats and fasten your seatbelt in the event of turbulent air, injuries caused by turbulence are generally not grounds for a lawsuit unless you can show that an airline neglected their duty to you as a passenger during the turbulence.

For more information about air travel and your rights as an injured passenger, speak with Fitzpatrick Santos Sousa Perugini, P.C. today by dialing (203) 583-8299 for a case evaluation.