An airline passenger can be injured in lots of ways: falls during sudden turbulence, knees or feet smashed by beverage carts, objects falling out of overhead bins, spilled coffee. In some cases, injuries suffered on planes can be serious, requiring hospitalization and a lengthy recovery. Someone with this kind of injury may wonder if suing the airline is an option.
Airlines have a special duty of care to protect their passengers
Personal injury lawsuits usually rest on a theory of negligence. Negligence requires plaintiffs to prove four things:
- The defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care.
- The defendant breached its duty of care.
- The defendant’s breach of its duty of care was the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injury.
- The plaintiff suffered damages, such as expenses or pain, that can be compensated by a court judgment.
Airlines are a kind of common carrier, an umbrella term that covers any operator of a motor vehicle that is offered to the public as a means of transport from one place to another. NRS 707.041. Legally, all common carriers owe a special duty “to use the utmost care and diligence” to protect their passengers from injury. This high duty of care means that even a slight absence of care may be enough to support a lawsuit for personal injury. Harold’s Club v. Sanchez, 70 Nev. 518, 521 (1954).
Here are a few examples of how an airline might act negligently:
- Not paying attention while rapidly pushing a snack cart down the aisle.
- Not ensuring that overhead luggage compartments are properly latched before takeoff.
- Making unnecessary aerial maneuvers while passengers are allowed to move around the cabin.
Limits to an airline’s duty of care
Although a common carrier has a significant obligation to keep its passengers safe, it is not expected to keep them safe from every potential risk. An airline cannot protect passengers from unforeseeable risks, nor can it be held responsible if a passenger ignores safety instructions. For example, if a passenger ignores a fasten-seatbelt sign, stands up, and falls during heavy turbulence, the airline probably isn’t responsible for the passenger’s resulting injuries.
The legal issues surrounding airline injuries can be tricky and should be reviewed by an attorney as soon as possible after the accident. For over 45 years the attorneys at the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez have helped clients in the Las Vegas area work get compensation for personal injuries. For a free attorney consultation, call us at 702-388-4476 or send us a request through our site.