Boarding and Disembarking Injuries
When you go to the airport, you may board an aircraft by walking down a jetway, and you may board an aircraft by walking out to the regional jet and climbing up the stairs. Both jetways and stairways can prove difficult for passengers to navigate, and often passengers fall and sustain injuries.
At the airport, the airlines usually have an employee or contractor extend the jetway out to the aircraft after it arrives at the airport. The jetway does not connect to the aircraft, although it touches and sits in close proximity to the aircraft. Improper positioning of the jetway can leave a dangerous gap or step for passengers to cross when boarding or exiting the aircraft.
As people get on, or off, of an aircraft, the aircraft weight changes. During boarding, the aircraft may sink. During disembarking, the aircraft may rise. The jetway automatically stays even with the aircraft doorway through a device called an “auto-leveler.” The auto-leveler is supposed to move the jetway up or down, so that it stays “level” with the aircraft door. However, the auto-leveler is not precise, and it often leaves significant and unexpected steps or drop-offs for passengers to navigate when they board or exit the aircraft.
If you are flying on a regional aircraft or business jet, you may be asked to walk across the tarmac to board the aircraft by climbing metal stairs. These stairways may or may not have a handrail on both sides, and they often do not have anything on the stair treads to improve traction. Slips, trips, and falls frequently happen on these stairways, especially by passengers who are elderly, disabled, or possess a medical condition.
If you slip, trip, or fall while boarding or exiting an aircraft, first seek medical attention, and then report the accident. Often these accidents are not seen by the airport employees or the flight crew, and you may not get the medical attention you need unless you report the incident.
After you have gotten help, report your accident to the Stilwell Law Firm. We will figure out what happened and will assert a claim to protect your rights.
Overhead Bin Injuries
When you board an aircraft, you have to look for your seat and you have to store your carry-on luggage. Airlines provide overhead bins for storing carry-on items, and even advise passengers of the sizes of, and numbers of, carry-on items that a passenger may bring onto the aircraft. However, the airlines seldom police their own rules. As a result, overhead bins are frequently overfilled with too many items, some of which are too heavy or too large to be stored in the bin. Additionally, the airlines seldomly supervise or organize the overhead bin storage process. What happens next is inevitable and foreseeable – things fall out of overhead bins hurting passengers.
Sometimes overhead bin injuries happen at the start of the flight during the boarding process, and sometimes these injuries happen once the plane has landed. Many times, these injuries happen in flight when a passenger or a flight attendant opens the bin to retrieve an item. Airlines do not travel with doctors or medical personnel on the aircraft, so these injuries often go untreated until the passenger can arrange to see a doctor after the plane has landed.
How do the airlines defend these claims? They blame the passengers who packed the overhead bins and they don’t accept responsibility. Airline flight attendants frequently testify that they had no idea that the overhead bin was overstuffed, even though they are supposed to be watching the bins being loaded during the boarding process. Airline flight attendants also testify that they had no idea that a bin was not properly or completely latched, even though they have a duty to ensure the overhead bins are closed before the aircraft starts any movement.
There are several things you should do if you are injured by something falling out of an overhead bin.
- Always ask for and seek medical attention. If you were hit in the head or neck, you may have a concussion or a delayed injury. The flight attendants can and will bring you ice for your head, neck, shoulder or arm. They can also arrange for an emergency medical team to meet the flight when it arrives at its next stop.
- Determine who opened the overhead bin that allowed the luggage or item to fall on you. If it was a flight attendant, get his or her name. If it was a passenger, ask for his or her name. If the passenger will not give you his or her name, ask a flight attendant to look up the name of the passenger based on the seat where they were seated.
- Take a picture of the luggage that fell on you.
- Ask the owner of the luggage what was in it and how much it weighs. Often the airline will defend a claim by arguing that the luggage had to fit within their carry-on luggage specifications and therefore must have been soft-sided and light. Passengers ignore, and the airlines seldomly enforce, their carry-on luggage rules. In order to defeat this argument, it helps if you know the type of luggage or case that hit you, and its approximate weight. If possible, get a picture of it with your cell phone.
- Report the accident to the nearest flight attendant before leaving the aircraft.
- Report the accident to the nearest gate agent once you leave the aircraft.
- After obtaining medical treatment, follow up with the airline and submit a claim. Most customer service agents possess some authority to attempt to resolve and settle your claim up to a minimum level.
If you cannot get your claim resolved with the airline, call the Stilwell Law Firm for help. We know the airlines and their insurers, and we can make sure your claim is heard and properly evaluated.
Airline Service Accidents
Once you board an aircraft, you will generally find yourself in close quarters with a lot of other passengers. The airlines now put more passengers in each aircraft, leaving less space for passengers in their seats and less space for flight attendants offering services.
The flight attendants use food and beverage carts that are heavy and wide. They take up almost the entire width of the aisle in an aircraft. Quite frequently passengers sitting in an aisle seat are hit in the hand, elbow, knee or leg by a flight attendant pushing or pulling a cart.
Sometimes passengers request hot coffee or hot water for tea while they are traveling. Flight attendants do not always put lids on these cups, and spills of hot liquids can seriously burn a passenger.
Flight attendants frequently open overhead bins during flight to get service items needed during the flight. During flight, opening an overhead bin presents a risk and danger to the passenger underneath that bin. Airlines and flight attendants know that the overhead bins are likely over packed and that items can and do shift during flight. Yet, flight attendants open the overhead bins without properly protecting the passengers seated underneath them.
If you are injured while traveling on an airplane, first seek medical attention from the nearest flight attendant. Keep the flight crew advised of your pain, and ask to fill out an incident report. When you arrive at your destination seek out proper medical care, even if it means calling home to consult your regular physician.
Thereafter, report the incident to the Stilwell Law Firm. We will figure out what happened and will assert a claim to protect your rights.
Turbulence and Landing Injuries
Pilots do not fly aircrafts anymore. Autopilots fly aircrafts. However, this means that the airlines and their flight crew sometimes allow the aircraft to fly directly into dangerous weather, including severe turbulence, that they knew or should have known would pose a risk to the passengers onboard.
Weather also affects take-offs and landings. Wind shear at an airport can cause an aircraft to experience sudden control issues right at the critical moments before touchdown. The aircraft landing might be successful, but the occupants of the aircraft may have been jolted, thrown into the seats in front of them, or sustained whiplash type injuries.
These are hard claims to prove and they require the skill and expertise of an experienced aviation law firm like the Stilwell Law Firm to successfully present them to the airlines and their insurers.
International travelers find protection in the Montreal Convention. The drafters of the Montreal Convention intended it to act as a single, universal treaty to govern airline liability around the world and unifies laws, codes, and regimes of the 120 countries who have ratified the treaty.
Importantly, the Montreal Convention streamlines litigation and creates strict liability for the airlines for claims up to 100,000 valuation in the International Monetary Fund’s special drawing rights, which equates to approximately $150,000 U.S. dollars. The treaty also streamlines jurisdictional issues in aviation incidents and requires every airline to carry liability insurance coverage.
Trial judges do not deal with international treaty law very often, and they don’t know the interplay of strict liability and the removal of defenses for airlines governed by the Montreal Convention. The Stilwell Law Firm knows and understands how the Montreal Convention protects your rights. If you have been injured while traveling internationally, call the Stilwell Law Firm to help streamline your claim and quickly obtain the compensation you deserve.
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