For most people, flying is non-eventful, but on occasion, excessive air turbulence causes injury. While most injuries are minor, some people get seriously hurt. If you received an injury due to air turbulence that resulted in significant medical bills, you need to know if the airline has any responsibility. Especially if you have no insurance or it does not cover all of your related expenses, it is essential that you understand your legal rights.
As the customer of the airline, you can recover monetary loss, but sorting through the legal rules is often challenging. With turbulence, injuries occur in several ways, including luggage dropping out of the overhead bin, falling while going to or returning from the restroom, getting rammed by a runaway food cart, or even getting bumped by another passenger. Depending on your situation, you may have a legal claim not only against the airline but also its employees, the actual airplane, various component manufacturers, and the FAA.
If you sustained an injury, all you care about is getting well and having your medical bills paid. As to the legal claim available to you, it all depends on what or who was the cause of the accident. For instance, if during air turbulence a flight attendant was inattentive or careless, then you could file a claim of negligence against the airline. In this case, you must prove that the flight attendant was not careful and because of his or her careless action, you sustained an injury.
As a “common carrier,” the law imposes a high duty of care, meaning that every employee, including the pilot, must act vigilantly to protect passengers from harm. The problem is that turbulence and “acts of God” get classified as unforeseen events of nature. Although pilots carefully chart their courses to avoid turbulence, as an unpreventable event, they are not always successful. As long as the airline, including the pilot and flight attendants, worked vigilantly to keep you safe, you cannot hold it liable.
However, there is a caveat. If you were going to or coming back from the restroom but the flight attendant failed to illuminate the “fasten your seatbelt” sign only for you to take a nasty fall, you could file a claim of negligence. You could also win your claim if during a turbulent flight a latch on an overhead bin failed to work, causing heavy carry-on baggage to fall and hit you. In that situation, you could file a product liability claim against the manufacturing company of the latch.
As you can see, there are numerous factors to consider when filing a claim against an airline as the result of you sustaining an injury because of air turbulence. For that reason and for the best chance of winning your claim, it is essential that you hire a qualified attorney, someone who specializes in cases that have to do with aircraft function and safety, aviation litigation, and FAA rules and regulations.