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International Air Flight Injuries Deemed “Not an Accident”

May 30, 2016 | Accident & Injury

Today’s article on CBC’s Go Public has prompted a discussion related to air flight injuries on international airline travel. According to Go Public, Colin Savage suffered from deep vein thrombosis (DVT), likely the result of sitting for most of a 10-hour flight. Blood clots had migrated up his leg, through his heart and into his lungs. His injuries impacted his life-style, and he endured a long road back to recovery.

Does DVT occur because of seat size? Does length of travel constitute a “personal injury”? According to Air Canada’s response to Mr. Savage, the airlines have to follow safety regulations set out by Transport Canada but do not have to provide comfort to a passenger; and that their research shows no correlation between seat pitch and the occurrence of DVT.

Air flight injuries, no accident, no compensation

However, according to Paul Warnett – who has experience with international air travel personal injury cases, this case is not a medical issue – it really comes down to what the law specifies in personal injury on international flights. He explains, “The reason why DVT cases have largely been rejected by international courts is that the injury is not caused by an “accident” as defined in Article 17 of the Montreal Convention. Courts around the world have said an “accident” requires an unexpected event or unusual event or happening that was external to the passenger.   Deep Vein Thrombosis cases have been interpreted as an injury caused by an event that is “internal” to the passenger and not caused by an unexpected event or unusual event external to the passenger.  Therefore, the courts have concluded that there was no “accident”. No “accident” results in no compensation.

Paul further explains that there should be more attention to injuries such as DVT experienced on long-haul flights. “The way to ensure that passengers who suffer from Deep Vein Thrombosis receive compensation from the airlines is to change the wording of Article 17 so that any injury suffered on an international flight results in compensation. That would require countries to focus on ensuring that the interests of passengers are the primary focus of these international treaties.”

Airline carrier liability for injuries

Countries around the world who have signed onto the Montreal Convention have done so to achieve uniformity in how the law on injuries sustained on international flights will be treated internationally. Uniformity can be difficult to achieve because courts of various countries can interpret the same words differently. The key is what is an “accident” under Article 17?

Article 17 of the Montreal Convention

According to Article 17 of the Montreal Convention that covers Death and Injury of Passengers — Damage to Baggage:

The carrier is liable for damage sustained in case of death or bodily injury of a passenger upon condition only that the accident which caused the death or injury took place on board the aircraft or in the course of any of the operations of embarking or disembarking.

Personal injury accidents on international flights

In this case, although there is an unlikely possibility of compensation for the passenger’s airline injuries, there are many successful personal injury accident claims on international flights that have settled due to:

  • Injuries sustained while embarking or disembarking the plane.
  • Sprains, broken bones, cuts and bruises from falls, turbulence or flying objects.
  • Turbulence resulting in bags falling on head, causing a concussion, or head injury.
  • Beverage spills or other service accidents resulting in burns.
  • Soft-tissue injuries such as whiplash due to turbulence or falls.
  • Lacerations from sharp objects.
  • Death and life-threatening injuries from air disasters.

Find out if your air flight injury is an accident that can be compensated

If you have sustained an injury on an international flight, it’s in your best interests to work with a personal injury lawyer who understands international aviation coverage. The rights of international travellers are governed by international treaties and personal injury lawsuits have time limitations.

Don’t hesitate to call Warnett Hallen LLP for advice – we’re here to help passengers injured on an international air flight. In conjunction with appropriate experts, we assess personal injury cases on international air flights. Call our office today, we are available 24/7, or fill out a free consultation form.


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