Treaty governs international air travel accident claims

An article from the Boston Globe raised an interesting point when it comes to injuries sustained during international air travel. As you probably heard two weeks ago, an Asiana jetliner crash-landed at the San Francisco International Airport on July 6, leaving three dead and more than a dozen seriously injured.

In the wake of the upsetting crash, courts will have the duty of figuring out what kind of compensation, if any, each of the passengers is entitled to. As the Boston Globe article pointed out, the compensation will likely be based on an international treaty that is to be used when international flights are involved in accidents.

The Boston Globe article reported that the treaty will likely mean that passengers who were sitting right next to each other will be entitled to vastly differently settlements, often depending on which country they call home. According to an attorney interviewed for the article, U.S. citizens will likely have no trouble seeking compensation in U.S. courts, but the same will not be true for non-citizens.

Because the plane crash involved an international flight from South Korea, many people aboard were residents of other countries, including 141 from China, 77 from South Korea, three from Canada, three from India and one from Japan. The three who were killed as a result of the crash were young women from China. These individuals and their families will likely have to pursue claims in Asia or their own countries, the article said, which will likely mean a much smaller settlement.

Under the international treaty, often called the Montreal Convention, passengers injured on international flights have five options for where to seek compensation: the country they live in, the country of their final destination, the country the ticket was issued, the country the air carrier is based and the air carrier’s principal country of business.

It is likely that many of the Asiana passengers will attempt to seek compensation in the United States under the treaty even though the carrier is based in Asia. In the United States, plane crashes usually result in settlements in the $1 million range, an attorney told the Boston Globe. But in other counties, that number is usually reduced to the low five-figure range.

Source: The Boston Globe, “Survivors of Asiana crash may face compensation disparity,” Paul Elias, July 14, 2013