Statistically, airplane crashes are rare; however, people often suffer other injuries and accidents during air travel. The international treaty, known as the Montreal Convention (the Treaty), governs liability and compensation in cases where a New Hampshire victim suffers injuries or death during airline travel. The treaty provides that airlines may be liable for personal injury or wrongful death of a passenger on an international flight, between two qualifying nations. New Hampshire injury victims who wish to recover under this treaty must establish that their injury or death arose from an “accident” on board of an aircraft, in the “course of any of the operations of embarking or disembarking.”
An “accident” is an unexpected or unusual event that is external to the victim. Courts have applied this nebulous term to injuries that result from hijackings, passenger assaults, and an airline’s failure to provide adequate medical attention to a passenger. Issues often arise when the injury-causing event occurs outside of the plane. In these cases, courts will determine whether the victim was in the “operation” of embarking or disembarking. This inquiry typically requires the court to evaluate factors such as where the passenger was when the event occurred, what the victim was doing at the time of the incident, and the location of the passenger to the plane.
Additionally, the Treaty requires that a passenger brings their suit within two years of the “date of the arrival at the destination, or from the date on which the aircraft should have arrived, or from the date on which the carriage stopped.” Plaintiffs who do not abide by the strict statute of limitations may risk dismissal and waive their right to recovery. For example, in a recent case, a state appellate court issued an opinion addressing issues that may apply to when someone is injured while on an airplane.