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I was recently injured when my flight hit turbulence, but the airline is already dodging responsibility—will I be able to collect compensation for my medical bills?

 

A:

Even if you only fly a few times each year, you can probably recite the flight attendants’ safety demonstration from memory. You know that your seatbelt must be fastened during taxi, takeoff, and landing, and whenever the seatbelt sign is illuminated. You even know that when the seat belt sign is turned off, for your own safety, you should keep your seat belt fastened whenever you are seated.

The above information is repeated again and again for a reason—it is the airlines protecting themselves from liability. The cruise phase of flight is generally much safer than the critical phases of flight, but turbulence (in its many forms) remains the leading cause of injury onboard. Most injuries are the result of the lack of seatbelt use, which becomes the focal point of many cases involving turbulence-related injuries.

If your seatbelt was not on, but the seatbelt light was illuminated, it is likely that the airline will use that to dodge at least a portion of the liability for your injuries. In this scenario, especially on an international flight where negligence is not necessary for the airline to be held liable, the airline is likely trying to absolve themselves of total liability with a comparative negligence-type argument, as your behavior may have contributed to your own injuries.

If the seatbelt sign was not illuminated, the airline is likely to hark back to their safety announcements that recommend having your seatbelt fastened while you are seated. On international flights, on which an accident is considered an unexpected external event, if the seatbelt sign was off and your seatbelt was off, you had no way of expecting the turbulence. On domestic flights, this would be a more difficult scenario to prove negligence—if the pilots knew of possible turbulence but did not illuminate the seat belt sign, for instance, that could be considered negligence.

If you have been hurt in turbulence on a flight, regardless of its origin or destination, you may be able to recover damages for your injuries. Discuss your case with an aviation attorney in a free, no-obligation consultation by calling Curry, Pearson & Wooten today, or by filling out the short online contact form on this page.


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