One of the important questions Doug Landau asks every new client who fell at an airport or on the runway is, “Where exactly did you fall?”
Why is this an important question?
Understanding when someone falls, either before entering the terminal or after passing through the TSA checkpoint, is crucial, as it can significantly impact their cases. Who the traveler might have a claim against may be very different than if they were injured going out onto the tarmac to go up the stairway headed to their jet as opposed to being knocked down at the entrance of the terminal, prior to going through security.
Why is this so? What difference does it make if someone falls stepping out of their car going to curbside checking, versus slipping on the de-icer in the Air Operations Area (AOA) before their commercial jet flight?
If a traveler falls due to a missing chunk of concrete at the curb after being dropped off by a taxi, the airport authority or the company managing the airport would most likely be responsible. However, if the traveler has not yet begun their journey, they do not have the same benefit of any common carrier laws or other special legal procedures.
If a traveler falls while in a restaurant at the main terminal, prior to the TSA checkpoint, their case would likely be against the restaurant and not the airport maintenance or other defendants. On the other hand, if the passenger has a meal at the restaurant and then goes through TSA security, and a fall occurred due to a defect in the floor or from a bump by the wheelchair attendant, then their case would likely be against the airport authority. The claim could potentially also be against the maintenance company, subcontractor, or wheelchair attendant.
What about the situation where someone goes even further?
Assume a passenger has a fall while ascending on the portable steps to a jet. If the fall occurs due to failure to secure the steps properly, or defective equipment, then the traveler’s claim would potentially be against the airline. The claim could also be against the subcontractors who may have fixed the stairs. Many travelers are unaware of the fact that the airlines will often lease gates, the ground underneath their jets, and other parts of the airport. Therefore, what may appear to be a straightforward case against the airport authority, is only against the airline that the passenger was traveling on, and perhaps at subsidiary or regional air carriers.
An injury may occur while on the flight, such as when a passenger gets scalded by a hot beverage, crashed into by a food cart, or the overhead air conditioning and light collapses (we have had this case)!
This type of case would be against the airline and/or the flight crew. They would be charged with failure to provide safe transportation from point A to point B, as a “common carrier.” If the accident occurred during international travel, then the international treaty known as the “Montreal Convention” would also come into play. As we have written in previous posts, this treaty sets forth the rights, limits of liability, and the required venue/jurisdiction for the case. Montreal Convention cases must be filed in a Federal Court, and depending on the circumstances of the case, may have limited recoveries and limited defenses.
If you are injured anywhere from the curb to your ultimate destination, and their questions about airline or travel injuries aND airport accidents, please contact us at (703) 796–9055 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.