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Aviation Accidents: International Flights

Updated March 8, 2019 | By Wilson Kehoe Winingham staff

International aviation accidents are complicated and frightening events. They can include accidents that occur outside the United States, flights incoming to the United States from foreign countries, and flights departing from the United States to international destinations.

While the rate of domestic aviation accidents has decreased in the last few decades—thanks to improved safety standards, safer aircraft designs, and laws regulating airline personnel—not all countries have the same standards in place.

A typical international flight includes passengers from many different countries, all with different legal rights that apply to their citizens. Each passenger’s ability to pursue legal action after an accident is impacted by their nationality. Often, even if an accident occurs overseas, it is possible to pursue a legal claim in the United States. In other situations, international treaties such as the Montreal Convention may determine how compensation is paid.

Montreal Convention

The rights of passengers injured or killed in international aviation accidents are often governed by an international treaty called the Montreal Convention. After an accident, the convention determines the airline’s legal obligations to victims, including passenger compensation.

Under the convention, injured passengers or their families can potentially pursue legal cases in the following countries:

  • Where the airline resides
  • Where the airline has a place of business
  • Where the aviation journey ended
  • Their place of permanent residence

The Montreal Convention only applies to air carriers—not airport maintenance personnel or aircraft manufacturers. Additionally, it limits the types of recovery passengers can claim.

International Aviation Accident Statistics

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a specialized agency of the United Nations, controls international air travel and collects data concerning international aviation accidents. Statistics for scheduled international commercial flights are as follows:

  • 2012: 98 accidents, 11 fatal accidents
  • 2013: 90 accidents, 9 fatal accidents
  • 2014: 97 accidents, 8 fatal accidents
  • 2015: 92 accidents, 6 fatal accidents
  • 2016: 75 accidents, 7 fatal accidents

Accident rates show a decrease in the number of international aviation accidents:

  • 2012: 3.1 accidents per 1 million departures
  • 2013: 2.8 accidents per 1 million departures
  • 2014: 3.0 accidents per 1 million departures
  • 2015: 2.8 accidents per 1 million departures
  • 2016: 2.1 accidents per 1 million departures

Pursuing Legal Action

The United States has one of the most generous systems in place for aviation accident victims and their families; you are more likely to obtain maximum compensation if you pursue legal action within the United States. However, state or federal courts may not have jurisdiction in your case, and the process for securing compensation may be more difficult in other countries.

With the complex laws and treaties surrounding international aviation accidents, it is important for you to have an experienced legal team to help you navigate the process of litigation. The aviation accident attorneys at WKW can help you determine how to proceed.

If you or a loved one were involved in an international aviation accident as a United States resident, the Montreal Convention may apply to your case. If the circumstances of the accident make it impossible to pursue legal action in the United States, we can assist you in finding legal counsel wherever your claim can be pursued. Additionally, if you are a resident of another nation, we can help direct your next steps.

Contact an Aviation Accident Attorney Today

Our staff attorneys include two licensed pilots, each with a commercial license, flight engineer certificate, and instrument and multi-engine aircraft ratings. They also have experience flying Boeing 727s and many private aircraft.

If you or a loved one have been injured as a result of an international or domestic aviation accident, you are urged to contact the Indianapolis Aviation Accident Attorneys of Wilson Kehoe Winingham. The lawyers at WKW can help you with the next steps in pursuing an aviation accident case. Call 317.920.6400 or fill out an online contact form for a free, no-obligation case evaluation.

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