Air travel is one of the safest ways to get from point A to point B, safer by far than driving or taking the train. Injuries do occur on commercial flights, however: individuals fall while entering or exiting their aircraft; they are struck by luggage from overhead compartments; or they are hurt during periods of turbulence. In all of these cases, an experienced Ontario personal injury lawyer can help you access compensation for your injuries. But first, it’s important to understand what rules and regulations apply to airborne flights, and what standard of care commercial airlines owe their customers.

Laws on international flights

Canadian laws will apply to any injuries you sustain while flying domestically, but on international flights the standards are different. International travel generally falls under the jurisdiction of a treaty called the Montreal Convention, which was drafted in 1999 to address the need for “a clear, unified and modernized international air liability system,” according to a 2004 article in the journal Issues in Aviation Law & Policy. The Convention introduced a two-tier liability system that allows passengers to claim up to $75,000 USD without proving willful neglect by the airline in question.

Flights to or from nations that have not ratified the Montreal Convention are not covered by this liability system. International law is always complex, which is why you should consult an Ontario personal injury lawyer if you or a member of your family has been injured on an overseas flight.

Airlines’ standard of care

In December 2015, a Shanghai-to-Toronto flight encountered severe turbulence over Alaska resulting in more than 20 injuries, including one requiring a lengthy hospital stay. If one of these injured passengers wanted to hire an Ontario personal injury lawyer and initiate a civil lawsuit, would they have a case?

“Most of the passengers who were physically injured were aware that they were required to wear their seatbelts, but chose not to,” the Transportation Safety Board (TSB) wrote in their report on the incident, according to the National Post. “The injuries resulted from passengers coming into contact with aircraft furnishings, the ceiling, and the floor of the interior.”

The flight received reports of turbulence on its route and the crew took precautions to avoid injury, including securing meal carts and telling passengers to fasten their seatbelts in multiple languages. They then walked through the cabin to ensure that seatbelts were fastened.

Though the crew made genuine attempts to protect passengers from injury, they still may not have fulfilled their duty of care: for instance, cabin lights remained dim during the crew’s seatbelt inspection, which may have hindered their ability to effectively ensure passenger safety. Airlines must fulfill a stringent standard of care and are responsible the negligence of their employees.