Air Carrier Liability: The Warsaw Convention

Aviation Accident Attorneys in San Francisco

Originally signed in 1929 and becoming effective in 1933, the Warsaw Convention is an aviation treaty that regulates liability for the airline industry. The convention places strict limitations on the amount of compensation that a person can collect if baggage is lost or a passenger is injured or killed.

The Warsaw Convention applies only to people who are engaged in international, not domestic, transportation. It is important to note that the Warsaw Convention only involves the air carrier. It does not include the manufacturers of the aircraft or any of its components, even if they are responsible for the accident and/or loss.

What Regulations Did the Warsaw Convention Create?

The Warsaw Convention accomplishes the following:

  • It defines “international carriage” and when and where the convention would be applicable;
  • It creates documentation rules for passengers;
  • It puts rules in place for legal jurisdiction;
  • It creates a two-year statute of limitations under which all claims must be brought; and
  • It limits liability for aircraft carriers.

Specifically, the convention limits a carrier’s liability to a maximum of 16,600 SDR (Special Drawing Rights) for personal injury and 17 SDR per pound of lost luggage.

The Warsaw Convention also stipulates that a passenger or their family can file a lawsuit in one of the following venues:

  • The carrier’s principal place of business;
  • The home of the carrier;
  • The carrier’s place of business through which the contract was made; and
  • The place of the destination.

The Warsaw Convention was amended in 1955 at The Hague, Netherlands and again in 1971 in Guatemala City, Guatemala, and was eventually replaced by the Montreal Agreement in 1999. Read more about how the Montreal Agreement changed airline liability laws by clicking here.

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