This time of year everyone gets the itch to travel – March break is here but Spring isn’t in full swing, so we’re eager to get somewhere sunny and fun.
As someone who loves to travel, I believe that the emergence of widely available, generally affordable, commercial travel by air has been one of mankind’s great accomplishments. It has allowed us to immerse ourselves in different experiences and cultures which was nearly impossible a century ago for the average person.
Airplane travel is generally safe – U.S. studies have found that it is safer than travelling by car overall, and that is certainly true when it comes to number of car crashes as compared to plane crashes.
That being said, other types of injuries can be common when flying and are caused by reasons other than a crash.
Common types of injuries that we often see on airplanes include baggage falling on you from the overhead bin, getting hit by the beverage cart, or slipping on water on the bathroom floor for example. You can receive compensation from the airline for injuries sustained in those and many other circumstances.
Canada is a party to the Warsaw and Montreal Conventions which, through Canada’s Carriage by Air Act sets out a passenger’s rights and restrictions when it comes to compensation from an airline carrier following a personal injury on international flights.[i]
For the most part, the Carriage by Air Act makes it easier to recover damages from an Airline. In the case of bodily injury or death, an Airline is absolutely liable for damages sustained in an accident that took place on an aircraft or in the course of embarking or disembarking where damages do not exceed approximately $210,000 CDN[ii]. The Airline cannot limit or exclude their liability if damages fall below that amount.
For damages exceeding that amount, the Airline can avail itself of the defence that (a) the damage was not due to their negligence or wrongful act or omission, or (b) that the damage was solely due to the negligence of another party.[iii]
Despite these recovery rules, there is still a significant amount of dispute that occurs in interpreting the Act. For example, what is to be considered an “accident” for the purposes of airline travel? At what point does “embarking” start, such that it becomes the carrier’s responsibility as opposed to the airport, the same goes for “disembarking”, where does it end? The Act also refers only to compensation for bodily injury. Many courts have taken to mean that purely psychological injuries with no accompanying physical injury cannot be compensated. This also means that you cannot sue an airline for punitive damages.
If you or a loved one have sustained an in-flight injury and would like more information about your legal options, we can help. Call the Jasmine Daya & Co. team at 416-967-9100 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.
[i] International flights which fall under the scope of the Act are those between two parties who are either both members of the Warsaw Convention of Montreal Convention. For domestic flights, relevant domestic law applies, not the Carriage by Air Act.
[ii] The Act uses a currency of Special Drawing Rights (SDR) and monetary unit of the International Monetary Fund and is subject to regular revision. The current liability limit for absolute liability is 113 100 SDR.
[iii] Of note, these rights and restrictions apply only to claims against Airline Carriers and do not apply to claims against airplane manufacturers or airports, for example.