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What happens when an airline’s mistake leads to your long-term injury?

On Behalf of | Mar 1, 2024 | Personal Injury

When most people think of air travel-related injuries, they think of plane crashes. These are actually very rare. Yet, there are numerous common ways that an airline passenger can suffer serious, long-term injuries while in flight or while getting on or off the plane. These include:

  • Brain and head injuries suffered if a plane experiences turbulence and passengers hit the ceiling, back of a seat or other hard surface
  • Injuries caused by luggage falling from an overhead bin
  • Injuries caused by rapid decompression

A recent incident of a door blowing off an Alaska Airlines plane mid-flight is an example of when the last type of injury might occur – especially if oxygen masks don’t deploy properly. No one was seriously injured or killed in that event, but other incidents have led to significant harm.

The responsibility of airlines to their passengers

U.S. airlines are required under the Federal Aviation Act to take reasonable safety precautions to protect their passengers and flight crews. These begin long before a flight takes off, with making sure that planes have been properly inspected for any mechanical or other safety issues and ensuring that pilots are fully capable of flying the planes to which they’ve been assigned.

Airlines also have a responsibility to help passengers board and disembark safely and help ensure that they can safely move through a plane (when it’s allowed). Keeping passengers safe is a bigger part of flight attendants’ jobs than most people realize.

Determining who can be held liable in the event of injury

When a passenger is injured, it’s not always clear whether an airline can be held liable. Every situation is unique. If a passenger is walking around when they’ve been instructed to stay in their seats and belted because of turbulence and falls and suffers injuries, that passenger bears at least some responsibility if they suffer harm.

Other parties may be responsible for injuries as well. For example, ground crews that load the plane typically don’t work for specific airlines. If a plane is unevenly loaded or an explosive gets through in a package or bag loaded into the cargo hold, the parties responsible for these things will likely incur liability accordingly. If a plane malfunctions, the manufacturer may be liable. Oftentimes, third-party liability is determined during a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigation, which can take months or longer to complete.

If you or a loved one has suffered a long-term injury on a commercial flight, it’s best to have experienced legal guidance to maneuver the process of holding the right party(ies) accountable and getting the justice and compensation you deserve.