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New Hampshire Personal Injury Lawsuits Against Airlines

July 7, 2020

Statistically, airplane crashes are rare; however, people often suffer other injuries and accidents during air travel. The international treaty, known as the Montreal Convention (the Treaty), governs liability and compensation in cases where a New Hampshire victim suffers injuries or death during airline travel. The treaty provides that airlines may be liable for personal injury or wrongful death of a passenger on an international flight, between two qualifying nations. New Hampshire injury victims who wish to recover under this treaty must establish that their injury or death arose from an “accident” on board of an aircraft, in the “course of any of the operations of embarking or disembarking.”

An “accident” is an unexpected or unusual event that is external to the victim. Courts have applied this nebulous term to injuries that result from hijackings, passenger assaults, and an airline’s failure to provide adequate medical attention to a passenger. Issues often arise when the injury-causing event occurs outside of the plane. In these cases, courts will determine whether the victim was in the “operation” of embarking or disembarking. This inquiry typically requires the court to evaluate factors such as where the passenger was when the event occurred, what the victim was doing at the time of the incident, and the location of the passenger to the plane.

Additionally, the Treaty requires that a passenger brings their suit within two years of the “date of the arrival at the destination, or from the date on which the aircraft should have arrived, or from the date on which the carriage stopped.” Plaintiffs who do not abide by the strict statute of limitations may risk dismissal and waive their right to recovery. For example, in a recent case, a state appellate court issued an opinion addressing issues that may apply to when someone is injured while on an airplane.

In that case, an airline passenger was accused of stealing a crew member’s bag. The passenger agreed to allow the airline to search his belongings, where they did not recover any stolen items. Later, the crew member’s bag was found somewhere else on the plane, but the airline accused the man of throwing it to avoid being caught. The airline attendant directed a ground employee to detain the man and turn him over to “authorities.” After a series of events, the man was free to go. The man filed a lawsuit claiming that he suffered serious injuries to his legs. He stated that he was forced to walk for a considerable length of time and was not allowed to sit, despite notifying officials that he was recovering from surgery.

The airline responded, asking the court to dismiss the case, arguing that the man’s injury began inflight and therefore fell within the Montreal Convention. Consequently, they argued, that because he did not bring the claim within the statute of limitations under the Treaty, his case was time-barred. The man countered that his injuries occurred after exiting the plane, and therefore it was outside the scope of the Treaty. However, the court ultimately concluded that because the plaintiff failed to prove that the injury did not begin inflight, his claim fell within the Treaty and was therefore time-barred.

Have You Suffered Injuries While on An Airplane?

If you or someone you love has been injured while on an airplane, the New Hampshire injury attorneys at Peter Thompson & Associates can help you pursue a claim for compensation. Cases involving airline injuries are typically complex and require an in-depth and extensive understanding of various federal laws and, in some cases, international treaties. The attorneys at our law firm possess the skills and experience necessary to help you recover compensation in these cases. We also handle New Hampshire car accidents, slip and falls, and more. Contact our law firm at 800-804-2004 to schedule a free initial consultation with an attorney at our office.