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Airline Liability for Passenger Injury or Death


Airplane crashes result in a threatening or serious injuries and deaths. Affected individuals can suffer broken limbs, organ damage, broken limbs, and internal bleeding. Relatives of passengers who die after accidents go through traumatizing periods. They also experience pain due to the loss of their beloved persons. The paper below argues that the occurrence of a fault that causes a crash means that the airline is liable for the lives of the people who die or are injured. The identified potential causes include pilot error and maintenance failure. The discussion goes further to offer a detailed analysis of this legal topic and the potential issues that might arise in the future.

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Topic Description

Existing laws in different jurisdictions require that all survivors and family members of the deceased receive compensation after an air crash. Such payments are usually intended to cater to funeral costs, lost wages, and emotional injuries. Damage to assets or property after a crash is recognized as injury in accordance with the law (Velazquez 4). This is the case since many accidents can result in the loss or destruction of personal goods or cargo.

One of the hardest questions that passengers and relatives of victims ask is the person or corporation who should be responsible for a given airplane crash. Different parties will be on the frontline to know who is responsible for a given accident, including regulators, airline companies, and surviving family members (Michaelides-Mateou and Mateou 23). This information is critical since it makes it possible for attorneys, family members, victims, and manufacturers to determine who is liable for the losses or damages.

Unfortunately, the act of assigning liability for a given plane crash remains challenging or difficult. A legal affair that emerges after an air crash leads to a complicated and lengthy investigatory period or process. There are numerous agencies and boards that probe all airplane crashes in an attempt to identify the leading causal factors (Michaelides-Mateou and Mateou 52). These findings make it possible for every involved party to assign liability.

Historical Analysis

The selected legal topic for this discussion revolves around the issue of liability after the death or injury of passengers after air crashes. Velazquez indicates that the history of this issue goes back to the infamous French Revolution when people realized that there was a need for equal representation (17). Following this historical event, many states and communities began to establish new political systems and structures to treat all people equally and provide adequate opportunities.

The emergence of aviation law is attributable to the inventions of the Wright Brothers. This achievement led to the mass production of aircraft, thereby revolutionizing air travel forever. After the end of the First World War, many countries established giant corporations to produce airplanes for both military and civil use. This development is what informed new laws and policies to protect passengers and implement appropriate measures to compensate them.

Throughout the 1950s, several midair collisions were recorded between military and civil aircraft in the United States. These challenges emerged despite the existence of diverse laws governing these airplanes. In 1958, Congress passed a new Act in an attempt to improve safety and support the needs of many users (Michaelides-Mateou and Mateou 44). This law led to the establishment of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The ultimate objective was to ensure that both the military and civil fields used the country’s navigable airspaces in a safe manner.

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A historical examination of the development of liability laws in the field of aviation reveals that the existence of diverse procedures in compensation forced different nations to streamline their policies. This was the case since most of the recorded air crashes in civil aviation affected passengers and families from different countries. This knowledge is believed to have informed the 1955 Hague Protocol, the 1966 Montreal Agreement, and the 1999 Montreal Convention (Michaelides-Mateou and Mateou 65). This means that different airline corporations and nations worked together in an attempt to record positive results. The 1999 Montreal Convention (MC99) was aimed at modernizing most of the rules and policies governing aviation crashes across the globe.

MC99 currently applies to passengers and air carriers in the event of an air crash. This means that it eliminates manufacturers and other key stakeholders. The passage of MC99 has made it possible for air carriers to compensate victims for damages that can be established beyond doubt (Michaelides-Mateou and Mateou 52). Injuries and deaths arising from such accidents can result in compensations of around 150,000 USD. When it comes to manufacturers, there are laws that indicate that errors arising from faulty parts can result in legal liability.

Over the years, it has been evident that most of the existing aviation laws are easy to read. However, it becomes complex and complicated to use them whenever pursuing compensation from different parties. The existence of uncertainties and tensions between defendants and plaintiffs are some of the obstacles many victims, and their respective family members face (Michaelides-Mateou and Mateou 78). The investigations might take many years to conclude, thereby making it impossible for timely compensations to be made. New laws and regulations will emerge in the future if the demands and needs of all people are to be met.

Personal Position

My position for this legal topic or issue is informed by the current aviation policies put in place in different jurisdictions. Since many aircraft accidents cause property loss and death, the affected individuals find it hard to pursue their objectives or achieve their potential (Velazquez 19). When such crashes occur, the most important thing is to identify the outstanding cause and ensure that all affected persons are supported. This means that any individual or party whose negligence led to the crash should be legally accountable. Some of the major stakeholders highlighted after a plane crash include pilots, plane owners or operators, manufacturers, government agencies, spare parts providers, gas refilling firms, and maintenance and servicing agencies.

From a legal perspective, it is critical to know or identify whose actions led to a given air crash. This is necessary since the law requires that family members of the affected victims and those killed should be able to recover damages. Survivors should receive compensation for the loss of financial support or wages. Other key areas attorneys consider they include emotional pain, funeral costs, transportation fees, and suffering (Pearson and Riley 29). This aspect explains why agencies such as the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) should carry out proper investigations in order to identify who is to blame.

A crash caused by pilot error or poor maintenance means that the airline is liable. This is the case since the corporation should ensure that all employees understand that they have a heightened responsibility to duty to protect their passengers from any form of harm. The rationale behind this argument is that the recklessness or inappropriate behavior of a given pilot becomes the leading cause of the targeted crash.

Since the individual is an employee of the airline company, it should provide adequate compensations to the victims and support their needs. Some people might argue that any error arising from a pilot’s misbehavior should not implicate an entire airline. They can go further to assert that the employee might have acted in accordance with his personal expectations or desire to injure others. However, the fact that the individual is an employee of the airline means that he or she should act on its behalf. A passenger who decides to use a particular service forms a legal agreement with the airline (Pearson and Riley 48). This means that the company has a duty to protect him or her. The pilot is expected to pursue this responsibility on behalf of the airline.

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Similarly, airlines should be responsible if maintenance errors lead to a crash. Whenever identifying or signing contracts with servicing and maintenance companies, airlines should ensure that they meet the relevant requirements and operate in accordance with the specified procedures by international agencies (Alnuaimi 9). Such a failure means that many passengers’ lives are endangered. The implementation of appropriate laws is something that can compel airlines to focus on the needs of their passengers, hire competent pilots and train them effectively to safeguard lives, and ensure that airlines follow proper maintenance procedures for their aircraft.

History and Future Expectations

According to modern aviation law, any fault causing a crash such as maintenance failure or a pilot error results in airline liability. The affected company has to compensate persons who are dead or injured. However, this is something that has emerged after many years of legal battles and revisions. For instance, most of the accidents recorded from the 1950s could not be determined conclusively.

Consequently, legal experts and victims targeted manufacturers and airlines in an attempt to receive the required compensation (Alnuaimi 11). Some of the challenges that ensued came from manufacturers since they found it hard to accept liability since the cause of a given crash was not established. Towards the end of the 20th century, new ideas and concepts emerged whereby standardizations in aviation procedures and the introduction of automated systems in aircraft made it possible for investigators to identify faults after a specific air crash. These achievements revolutionized existing conventions and laws, thereby streamlining the way compensations had to be made after an accident.

Aircraft manufacturers and airline companies always engage in prolonged legal battles in an attempt to receive justice after a given air crash. The reason for doing so is to prove to the world that a given accident might not have occurred due to pilot error or negligence. Some also offer arguments to explain how they guide and mentor their employees to prevent air crashes and deliver maximum comfort to their passengers.

The involvement of many stakeholders is something that makes the process challenging. Some of them include attorneys, family members, aircraft manufacturers, servicing and maintenance agencies, government organizations, insurers, and airlines (Ji 139). What stands out from these observations is that families and victims will only have a single chance to receive compensation. Despite such issues or developments, it remains clear that insurance companies, aircraft manufacturers, and airline organizations continue to do business in their respective regions.

Additionally, existing laws have been found to be ineffective or inadequate since they fail to provide appropriate guidelines that cover unexpected occurrences or accidents that might be hard to resolve. A good example many researchers and experts in aviation law cite is the Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 (MAS370).

With the Boeing 777 still unrecovered, the issue of liability still remains contentious since the responsible agencies and government officials have been unable to offer a conclusive report (Alnuaimi 12). Without the debris of the crashed plane, it is impossible for any person or organization to claim that the manufacturer was liable for the accident. This is also the same case for the airline since it is impossible to identify the leading cause of the disaster.

Stakeholders and agencies in different parts of the world should consider this case and propose superior laws and policies for evaluating individual accidents and assigning liability. The compensation procedure for the victims’ family members and relatives followed the existing Malaysian and Chinese methodologies. This means that justice might not have been served. This challenge is expected to inform future guidelines and propose proper laws for compensating victims (Alnuaimi 14). For instance, international organizations can focus on superior policies that will ensure that payments are made to affected families even when the cause of a given air crash remains contested or unknown.

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Many investigations have indicated that numerous errors or factors cause crashes. Airline companies are usually liable for the lives of passengers who die or get injured. However, some of the presented findings fail to indict a given individual or agency for the targeted accident. This means that some of the reports might fail to identify the responsible party for a given air crash. This gap makes it impossible for the affected persons and their relatives to get the required compensation (Pearson and Riley 82).

This issue should, therefore, guide future investigators to identify the exact fault and determine if it was caused by maintenance failure or pilot error. Consequently, it can be possible for attorneys to demand payment for the injured or dead passengers.

Another potential outcome in the future is that airlines will become more responsible and ensure that they remain in business. They will achieve such an objective by training and empowering their pilots to reduce potential errors. They will also be on the frontline to ensure that maintenance procedures are conducted in accordance with every existing guideline or requirement. This practice will ensure that the number of accidents reduces significantly. Ji goes further to assert that new laws might emerge whereby airlines will push for new reforms and policies in an attempt to have this kind of liability removed (141). The fact that many air crash investigations fail to offer conclusive findings will inform this future projection.


The above discussion has offered numerous insights that airlines should take seriously. Since such companies will be responsible or liable for the lives lost or injured due to poor maintenance practices and pilot errors, there is a need for proper training methods in order to prevent these expenses. Future policymakers are also expected to introduce superior laws to ensure that passengers whose lives are disoriented after unresolved air crashes receive appropriate compensation.

Works Cited

Alnuaimi, Qussay A. “Aviation Accidents: CRM to Maintaining the Share of Airlines Case Study on Accidents Airlines in China.” Journal of Education and Practice, vol. 6, no. 30, 2015, pp. 6-19.

Ji, Pengfei. “Study on Air Crash Compensation Based on Private International Law Development Trend.” Open Journal of Social Sciences, vol. 3, no. 2, 2015, pp. 138-142.

Michaelides-Mateou, Sofia, and Andreas Mateo. Flying in the Face of Criminalization: The Safety Implications of Prosecuting Aviation Professionals for Accidents. 2nd ed., Routledge, 2016.

Pearson, Michael W., and Daniel S. Riley. Foundations of Aviation Law. Routledge, 2015.

Velazquez, Jonathan. “The Presence of Behavioral Traps in U.S. Airline Accidents: A Qualitative Analysis.” Safety, vol. 4, no. 1, 2018, pp. 2-26.

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StudyCorgi. 2021. "Airline Liability for Passenger Injury or Death." May 30, 2021.


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