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Injured on an Airplane: How Can You Recover?

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By Brett Snider, Esq. on December 12, 2014 7:50 AM

We tend to think of the worst when thinking of injuries related to airplanes. But while a deadly crash is one risk of air travel, what's far more likely is a mild to serious injury in-flight.

Falling bags, forcefully pushed service carts, and even pilot error can lead to injuries like you might experience on solid ground.

So how can you recover when you're injured on an airplane?

Overhead Compartment Injuries

We all remember that "baggage may have shifted during flight," but this does not necessarily absolve an airline of responsibility if a falling piece of luggage injures a passenger.

Airlines are held to a higher standard as a common carrier, so failure to inspect for dangerous conditions -- like perilously stacked baggage in overhead bins -- may be evidence of negligence.

Injuries Caused by Turbulence

Airplane turbulence isn't the leading cause of injury in most respects (though here's a funny PSA that disagrees), but it does cause injuries. In fact, in 2010, 30 people aboard a United Airlines flight from Washington, D.C., to Los Angeles were injured as the result of severe turbulence. Even if you were not wearing a seatbelt when instructed, it may not mean you cannot recover.

Often turbulence is beyond the control of the airline and its employees; it's simply a hazard of flying hundreds of miles per hour, thousands of feet above ground. Referred to as force majeure or an act of god, extreme weather events which cause turbulence may make it very unlikely to recover from an airline for injuries.

Airline Employee Error

The various airline employees aboard any flight are human and prone to mistakes as any passenger might be. However, if the pilot makes an error that leads to your injury (e.g., turning off the "fasten seat belt" sign during turbulence), the airline may be liable for its employee's negligence. This includes negligence by flight attendants (e.g., spilling hot drinks on passengers, or even the failure to help passengers from boarding or disembarking without falling).

The key to success in recovering for your in-flight injuries is to consult with a personal injury attorney as soon as possible.

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