Plane passengers are at risk for injuries from bags falling from overhead bins, slips and falls, severe turbulence, and more. Although these in-flight injuries are rare, they can and do happen, and you should be aware of your potential for a personal injury lawsuit.
If you are injured during a flight, you could potentially have a legal claim against the airline, the airline employees, the manufacturer of the plane or its components, and possible even the Federal Aviation Administration.
Causes of in-flight injuries may include:
- Luggage falling from overhead bins, which contributes to more than 4,500 injuries every year
- Rolling food carts, which can run over passengers’ feet, run into shoulders or knees, or hurt passengers in other ways when rolling by
- Slip and falls, which can occur on the way to or from the bathroom or when moving about the cabin, contributing to ankle injuries, fractures, and other injuries
- Turbulence, which can cause passengers to be thrown from their seats, contributes to more than 50 injuries every year
It is important to note that turbulence-related injuries are a tricky legal area. An airline cannot be held liable for naturally occurring, unavoidable events, such as heavy turbulence. Therefore, as long as the crew was vigilant and took the proper precautions, turbulence-related injuries are not always eligible for a personal injury claim. However, if the crew knew about the upcoming turbulence and failed to take the proper precautions (i.e. telling passengers to buckle up), the airline could be held liable for the injuries caused.
Depending on how the injury occurred, you could have a number of different legal options, including:
- Negligence-based claims: This type of claim is appropriate when the accident was caused by the carelessness or inattention of an airline employee, including the pilot, crew member, flight attendant, or maintenance worker. In order to win this type of claim, you will have to prove that the employee is legally required to exercise a certain degree of care, which he or she failed to do. A negligence-based claim could arise from doing something careless; for example, a flight attendant spills something in the aisle and fails to clean it up, causing someone to slip and fall. It can also arise from failing to do something important; for example, a flight attendant does not latch the overhead bin properly, causing the luggage to fall out and hurt a passenger.
- Common carrier standard claims: Airplanes are legally classified as “common carriers,” meaning they transport the public for a fee. This classification opens airlines up to a heightened duty of care, meaning they must act with a high degree of care and vigilance to protect passengers from potential harm. All pilots, flight attendants, maintenance workers, and in-house safety inspectors must adhere to this heightened standard of care.
- Claims against the FAA: If the injuries were somehow caused by the Federal Aviation Administration, you could have grounds for a claim against the federal government. For example, say an air traffic controller’s failure to pay attention led to a “fender bender” on the runway, which injures several passengers. The traffic controller, not the airline or the pilot, is ultimately responsible for this incident, and you could potentially file a lawsuit to recover damages. However, keep in mind that claims against the federal government have special rules and procedures in place, and they are often more difficult to win than a typical personal injury case. In these types of cases, it is often best to contact an experienced personal injury lawyer as soon as possible after the injury.