California Airplane Crash Lawyers

The Warsaw Convention

Basically, the Warsaw Convention creates a presumption of liability against the air carrier for injury to and death of passengers engaged in international travel. However, certain defenses are provided whereby the carrier may avoid liability entirely. Most importantly, the Warsaw Convention imposes harsh limitations on the amount of damages one may recover.

Importantly, the Warsaw Convention only applies to the air carrier and does not apply to the airplane manufacturer or component part manufacturer which may bear responsibility for the loss.

The Warsaw Convention applies only to one engaged in “international transportation”. This is defined in Article 1(2) of the Convention as “any transportation which, according to the contract made by the parties, the place of departure and the place of destination, whether or not there is a break in the transportation or a transshipment, are situated either within the territories of two High Contracting Parties, or within the territory of a single High Contracting Party, if there is an agreed stopping place within a territory subject to the sovereignty, suzerainty, mandate or authority of another power, even though that power is not a power to this convention * * *”.

Generally, courts encounter little difficulty in determining whether a particular flight was in fact international. It has often been stated that international transportation is primarily a function of the intention of the parties as expressed in the ticket or contract.

In order for the Warsaw Convention to apply, the passenger must be informed of this fact. Article III requires airlines to deliver to the passenger a ticket containing a “statement that the transportation is subject to the rules relating to liability established by this convention”. Further, the ticket must be delivered in time to allow the passenger to take out insurance if he so desires.

The Warsaw Convention provides that a plaintiff can file a lawsuit, at his discretion, in one of the following venues: (a) the career’s principal place of business; (b) the domicile of the carrier; (c) the career’s place of business through which the contract was made; and (d) the place of the destination.

At the outset, the original Warsaw Convention set limits on the monetary exposure of the air carrier for injury or death. So harsh were these provisions, that evolution was destined. For example, Article 22 of the Warsaw Convention set original monetary limits at approximately $8,500 as maximum recovery. Evolution was slow.

The aforementioned passenger liability limits remained unchanged until 1955 under the guides of the Hague Protocol. The Hague Protocol would have raised passenger liability limits to approximately $16,500. The United States, however, refused to ratify the Hague Convention and recognizing the harsh limitations of the Warsaw Convention, in 1965 gave notice of its denunciation of the Convention. Shortly before denunciation was to take effect, an interim agreement was entered into by a large number of air carriers, and the denunciation was withdrawn.

This Agreement along with the requisite tariff and CAB order compose what is known as the “Montreal Agreement“.

If you or someone you know has been injured as the result of an airplane crash, you need the assistance of the Scarlett Law Group. Call (415) 688-2176 today to speak with a California Personal Injury Attorney.

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