Airline Cannot Escape Liability

Malaysia Airlines

A commercial passenger plane was shot down by militants, killing all passengers aboard. And, the airline company cannot dodge liability, thanks to international aviation laws.

On July 17, 2014, Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 carrying 298 passengers was shot down over the rebel-controlled area covering eastern Ukraine. The plan was traveling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it lost contact near Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine, which is approximately 31 miles from the Ukraine-Russia border.

Authorities strongly believe a surface-to-air missile brought down the plane, crashing within the conflict zone of an ongoing war between pro-Russian and anti-government groups. The majority of the passengers were from the Netherlands – 154 people. There were also a large number of Malaysian and Australian victims.

Thus far, there is no evidence indicating the plane malfunctioned and human error caused the crash. Investigators found wreckage and bodies spread across several miles along the flight path. Such evidence is “consistent with the plane being ripped apart by aerodynamic forces after the aircraft was penetrated by a high explosive projectile,” according to CBS News. Ukrainian authorities have called the crash an act of terrorism and blame pro-Russian rebels. Pro-Russian groups have denied involvement.

Who’s Responsible?

This is the question many loved ones are asking about Malaysian Flight 17. Officials say 283 passengers and 15 crew members died when the flight crashed. Money cannot replace the lives of those lost, but hundreds of families can seek compensation for their pain and suffering by filing a lawsuit, specifically a wrongful death suit.

A wrongful death claim is available for family members whose loved one died due to the fault of another person.

In this case, although Malaysian Airlines is not directly at fault, they will have to compensate the families. In cases of international aviation, the Montreal Convention governs. The Montreal Convention is an international treaty that governs airline liability in airline disasters. The Convention provides that airlines do not have to pay for damaged cargo if it is damaged in an act of war. However, in the case of a death or personal injury to a passenger, the airline carrier can be liable for up to $174,000 in damages per passenger. If you do the math, Malaysian Airlines would be liable for over $49 billion to the families of the victims.

If the damages amount to more that $174,000, then the families can seek additional damages. Nevertheless, the Convention does provide some limitations. If an airline carrier can successfully prove the accident was not due to the carrier’s negligence, liability can be avoided.

Need Legal Advice?

If you have been injured or have lost a loved one in an accident due to another person’s negligence, you may be able to collect damages. The attorneys at Solnick & Associates LLC can provide you with legal advice and help you best present your claim against your opponent. Contact our experienced personal injury attorneys today at 215-481-9979 for a free consultation.

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