Can You Sue An Airline Or Airport For Personal Injury?

Posted on: 18 August 2015

While flying can be a quick and effective way to get from one point to another, and is often the only way to travel to some far-flung areas or islands, it can also be a pain -- sometimes literally. One recent airline passenger is suing the airline for back injuries he allegedly suffered while contorted next to an obese, coughing seat-mate. While this is certainly an extreme occurrence, you may at some point find yourself dealing with injuries related to turbulence, food poisoning, or even tripping on a moving sidewalk that has gone off its tracks. When and how can you sue an airline or airport for injuries suffered during your travels? Read on to learn about your next steps after becoming injured.

Who can you sue for an injury suffered while flying?

Depending on several factors, you may be able to sue the airport, the airline, an individual (like a pilot or fellow passenger) or all of these. If your injury was suffered in the airport and was the result of action (or inaction when action was necessary) by those employed by the airport, it's unlikely you'll have a claim against an airline. If your injury happened on a flight, it's likely you'll sue the airline, not the airport. In either situation, you may also be able to sue the specific individual or individuals responsible for the harm you suffered. 

If you're suing only an airport, you'll likely need to file this lawsuit in the federal court closest to the airport's location. If this is inconvenient for you or you live across the country, it's possible you'll be able to file your lawsuit in the federal court closest to you -- but the airport may opt to have the case transferred closer, and a judge is likely to grant this request. If you're suing an airline for an injury that happened midair, it's likely you'll be able to keep the case in a federal court in your home state. 

If you're suing an individual only, you'll be able to file your lawsuit in a state court in the state where the event happened. Because this state's law will govern the outcome of the case, it's unlikely you'll be able to have the venue transferred. However, you should be able to attend some hearings and conferences by video conference rather than needing to travel to this location each time your case comes up.    

What will the trial process be like?

During a personal injury trial, you'll likely be asked to undergo a number of medical or psychological examinations to determine the severity of the injuries you're claiming. In order to recover a judgment against the defendant, you'll need to conclusively establish two things -- that you suffered actual injuries, and that these injuries were the fault and responsibility of the defendant(s). If you can establish those, all that remains is to calculate the financial damages. 

It's likely that your lawsuit will take some time to resolve and may not move as quickly as you'd like or expect. It takes a long time to prepare a thorough case (and defense), and one or both parties may request continuances of court proceedings in order to do research or further prepare their cases. Because you'll generally only get one shot at recovering money from the defendant for your injuries, presenting the best case possible is crucial. 

The defendant may also offer to settle the case for a specific monetary amount before trial. This is generally done to avoid potential liability during the judgment award -- many defendants would rather pay out a guaranteed amount than risk being assessed twice that much (or more) following a jury trial. Your attorney will be able to help you evaluate the "value" of your claim and decide if a settlement offer is a fair one or if you are better off taking the matter to court. 

Click here to learn more about this topic