Air travel is very safe. Fortunately, aircraft crashes and fatalities are a rarity.

Most accidents are more mundane, such as a trip and fall at the airport terminal and luggage falling from an overhead bin onto a passenger.

Here are some typical airport accidents:

  • A trip and fall on a broken sidewalk adjoining the terminal;
  • A baggage cart which struck a passenger; and
  • A motor vehicle accident on the roads and parking lots within the airport.

On cases involving airports you should be aware that most airports are owned by the local municipality or a public benefit corporation. This is so in New York and in many other cities. There are special time limits and rules as to filing a claim.

For example, in New York:

  • The John F. Kennedy (JFK or Kennedy) Airport and the LaGuardia Airport in Queens and the Newark Airport in New Jersey are all owned and operated by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. It is a bi-state agency. It also owns and operates the Port Authority bus terminal on 42nd Street in New York.
  • A notice of claim against the Port Authority must be filed no later than ten months from the accident date. This must be filed before a lawsuit is filed. Typically, we must wait 2 months until we can file suit.
  • The lawsuit must be filed no later than one year from the accident date.

In many instances the airport owner will not be responsible. The airline renting the space will be liable under a lease with the airport. For example, American Airlines would be responsible for the maintenance of its terminal at JFK Airport.

Here are some typical airplane accidents:

  • A trip and fall on the jet way entering the plane;
  • A case of wine falling from the overhead bin onto a passenger; and
  • A fall from the aircraft wing during emergency evacuations.

A case against an airline can be brought in either the state or federal court. Typically, the airline will remove a case to the federal court if plaintiff initially sued in state court. Generally, the state’s statute of limitations will apply, and there will be no special notice of claim rules. For example, the New York statute of limitations is three years.

In the case of injuries on an international flight, a couple of international treaties may control the measure of recovery. The Warsaw Convention limits damages to $75,000. The Montreal Convention increases the limit. Key considerations are which treaty applies and whether the air carrier’s conduct was willful or merely negligent.