PERSONAL INJURY AND AIRLINE INCIDENTS*
If you have been injured during air travel you may be able to bring a claim against the airline involved. Accidents on airlines are covered by the Montreal Convention (1999).
What to do when injured on a flight
- Report the accident to the cabin crew immediately – keep a note of their name
- Seek medical assistance as soon as possible
- Record the accident in writing by sending an email to the airline
- Keep your boarding card
- Take a note of your flight number
Making an aviation claim and The Montreal Convention
Under the Montreal Convention, as the injured party, you are entitled to bring proceedings in either the country where you live or the country you were flying to.
Article 17 of the Montreal Convention states that the airline is liable for damage sustained in the case of death or personal injury of a passenger provided that the accident took place on board the aircraft or in the course of any of the operations of embarking or disembarking. The airline will accept liability for the injuries sustained, up to approximately €130,000. So long as your claim for compensation does not exceed the stated amount, there will be no need to prove that the particular airline was negligent and you are automatically entitled to compensation.
If your claim against the airline exceeds the sum of €130,000 (approx.) you will have to prove that the airline was at fault.
Aviation claims cover the process of getting on a flight, the duration of the flight and getting off a flight. The definition of getting on a flight and getting off a flight is one that has been the subject of quite a number of case law. In general, the rule of thumb is that if you have passed through security then you are determined to be getting on a flight. Likewise, at the point where you are coming off the plane until you actually get out to the point where the general public is enabled to have access within the airport you are deemed to be getting off a flight.
Accidents which take place on an airplane fall within the provisions of Section 56 of the Civil Law Miscellaneous Provisions Act 2011, specifically the exclusions in relation to claims covered by the Montreal Convention, and therefore fall outside the remit of the Personal Injury Assessment Board (PIAB).
Psychological injuries under the Montreal Convention
It has been established that purely psychologic injury is not in itself sufficient for a claim to recover under the convention. In the English case of Morris -v- KLM (2002) UKHL7, the Court of Appeal dismissed the Plaintiff’s claim on this basis. In that case, the Plaintiff who was a 15-year-old girl, was sexually assaulted by a male passenger sitting next to her. She claimed that she suffered clinical depression as a result. She did not assert that there had been any physical injuries arising or connected with her depression. The Court of Appeal dismissed her appeal on the basis that she had sustained a mental injury only.
The Irish courts have also taken this view in the Circuit Court case of Geraldine Howe -v- City Flyer Express Limited. In that case, the Plaintiff claimed to have suffered nervous shock and post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of one of the engines on the aircraft catching fire. While the Judge in this case acknowledged the Plaintiff suffered a personal injury, he held that she cannot recover damages under Article 17 of the Convention because her injury was purely psychological in nature.
*Before acting or refraining from acting on anything in this guide, legal advice should be sought from a solicitor.
*In contentious cases a solicitor may not charge fees or expenses as a proportion or percentage of any award or settlement.