Commercial airliners rarely crash in the United States, but the few accidents that do happen usually lead to a significant loss of life. Airlines have insurance policies that compensate the grieving families of passengers killed in air disasters. The amount these policies pay varies, and they may not pay at all in some situations. The cause of the accident is another consideration. Sometimes, it is clear that extreme weather conditions brought a plane down, but sabotage, inadequate maintenance and mechanical failures are often only discovered after months of investigation.
Jurisdiction and settlement offers
The first issue is determining the legal jurisdiction. The terms of the Montreal Convention state that families can seek compensation in the carrier’s home country or their own home country as long as the carrier flies there. Once jurisdiction has been established, airlines and insurance companies may act quickly to compensate families before they file lawsuits. In 2015, media outlets reported that the German carrier Lufthansa had offered up to $100,000 to families just days after an Airbus A320 airliner crashed, and a black box recording revealed that the plane’s co-pilot had deliberately flown into a mountain.
The Montreal Convention also places a cap on the amount families can receive. In December 2019, the maximum compensation was increased to $128,821. However, not all families receive the same amount. One of the most important factors in determining payouts is the amount the deceased passenger earned. When accidents are caused by negligence, families may seek additional compensation by filing personal injury lawsuits. These suits could be brought against negligent airlines, airports or aircraft manufacturers.
Lawyers and insurance company negotiators
Families who have had barely enough time to deal with losing a loved one in an air disaster are unlikely to be ready to deal with lawyers and negotiators who have been trained to show empathy while seeking to save the airline and insurance company involved as much as they can. In these situations, it may be wise to consult with a personal injury attorney with experience in this area who could advocate for the highest compensation possible and provide advice about other legal options.