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  • What Compensation Can Passengers from the Singapore Air Turbulence Incident Get

    Published on May 23, 2024

    There was a really scary situation on a Singapore Airlines flight recently that left many passengers injured. The plane was flying from London to Singapore when it suddenly went through severe turbulence. Without any warning, the plane dropped around 6,000 feet in just 3 minutes!

    Imagine how terrifying that must have felt.

    Passengers described the plane violently shaking and items flying everywhere. Some people were hurt so badly that 20 passengers had to be treated in intensive care after the emergency landing. Worst of all, one British passenger tragically died – possibly from suffering a heart attack brought on by the sheer terror of the event.

    With so much injury and harm caused, you can be sure the passengers injured in the recent Singapore Airlines turbulence accident will try their hardest to get money from Singapore Airlines. After going through an experience like that, they’ll want to be compensated. But exactly how much money can they get? And what kinds of injuries qualify for payouts? It’s actually pretty complicated based on international aviation laws.

    There are a few key factors that determine what money the passengers could receive. Here’s a breakdown of the possibilities and how much they might be able to get:

    Automatic “Accident” Payouts Up to $170K Per Person

    Thanks to an international aviation treaty called the Montreal Convention, airlines have to automatically pay some money to passengers if an “accident” caused injuries during an international flight. Even if the airline did nothing wrong, they are still responsible for injuries up to around $170,000 per passenger if the incident qualifies as an “accident.”

    So the big question is – did this plane’s dramatic drop due to turbulence officially count as an “accident” under the legal definition? The Convention’s definition of “accident” is pretty broad. It includes any unexpected or abnormal event that isn’t just part of routine flight operations.

    Since passengers described the plane shaking violently and dropping thousands of feet very quickly, that sure seems abnormal and not routine at all! The passengers and their lawyers will likely argue hard that this absolutely qualifies as an “accident.” If a court agrees, Singapore Airlines may have to pay up to $170,000 to each injured passenger just automatically based on that treaty.

    Getting Payouts for Physical AND Mental/Emotional Injuries

    While getting compensated for any physical injuries is the obvious goal, the Montreal Convention also opens the door for passengers to get compensation for emotional distress too. The law allows claims for “bodily injury” which has been interpreted to include psychological harm in some cases.

    Imagine being one of the passengers thinking you might actually die as the plane was dropping uncontrollably. Some passengers got so scared they bought WiFi access midflight just to quickly tell loved ones “I love you” in case it was the end. That’s an incredibly traumatic experience!

    If passengers can prove they’ve suffered severe effects like PTSD, anxiety, fear of flying, or other emotional issues directly from this incident, they could seek damages for those “bodily injuries.” And juries tend to award really huge payouts for emotional trauma from life-threatening situations.

    We’re talking tens of millions of dollars sometimes if there is compelling proof that this one event has created lasting psychological scars for the passenger. Things like ongoing therapy costs, inability to work or travel due to anxiety, and general “pain and suffering” make up those large awards.

    Demanding “Punitive Damages” for Misconduct

    The biggest payouts could potentially come if there is any evidence that Singapore Airlines was negligent or reckless in some way that enabled this terrifying turbulence incident. Things like:

    • Ignoring past maintenance issues with the plane
    • Not properly training pilots/crew for turbulence
    • Having outdated safety equipment
    • Disregarding any operational regulations

    If negligence like that can be proven, the injured passengers would then go after “punitive damages” against the airline. These are financial penalties meant to directly punish the company for misconduct – not just compensate victims.

    And punitive damages often reach into the millions or even billions if a company’s behavior is found to be extremely reckless or neglectful. It’s a way for courts to prevent similar lapses by financially crippling companies that put profits over people’s safety.

    For example, if any reports came out showing Singapore Airlines skipped key maintenance to keep planes flying and cut costs, that could be grounds for massive punitive damages. The passengers would demand enough money to seriously financially punish the airline and get their attention.

    Pushing for One Massive Settlement

    With so many different people injured in this one incident, the main legal strategy will probably be pushing for one global settlement for any damages arising from the Singapore Airlines turbulence accident incident. Rather than having dozens of separate individual lawsuits over years, the passengers would collectively negotiate for one huge lump sum to cover everyone’s claims.

    A settlement provides finality and certainty for both sides. The passengers get paid out rather than dragging things out in court for years hoping for a jackpot jury award. And the airline can limit its total payouts to a fixed number rather than risking an endless stream of claims.

    The negotiations would get extremely complicated though. The goal for passenger lawyers would be maximizing the settlement amount to account for:

    • Automatic “accident” payouts
    • Compensating every type of physical injury
    • Calculating emotional trauma/PTSD for each person
    • Adding any punitive damages for misconduct

    With potentially billions on the line, both sides would surely fight hard over every dollar amount. The passengers would want enough to feel truly compensated. Singapore Airlines would push to pay out as little as absolutely possible.

    There’s also the complexity of whether payouts get the same for everyone or individualized based on specific injuries. Lawyers may advocate for tiers of compensation based on things like:

    • Severity of physical injuries (minor vs. hospitalizations)
    • Age of passengers (more for kids/elderly)
    • Trauma level (PTSD, fear of flying, etc.)
    • Lost income/earning potential

    Ultimately, any settlement number would have to be high enough that the majority of passengers feel it adequately covers their damages and deters similarmishaps. Otherwise, some may opt to keep fighting individually.

    So in summary, thanks to international aviation laws, the injured passengers have several strong legal arguments for why they deserve compensation from Singapore Airlines:

    • The “accident” clause could mean automatic payouts up to $170K per person
    • Mental/emotional trauma may allow much larger “bodily injury” claims
    • Any airline negligence could open the door to punitive damages worth millions
    • A massive collective settlement could resolve everything for both sides

    Of course, the airline will surely fight hard against larger payouts. Lawyers will dissect the specific evidence to argue over what the passengers are truly owed. The legal process will be very complex and likely drag out.

    But the passengers have laws on their side entitling them to potential compensation worth anywhere from thousands for minor injuries to millions or billions collectively. Sadly, no amount can undo the trauma. But the laws do provide routes to extract accountability and payment from the airline when severe turbulence turns a routine flight into a living nightmare.

    Why Need to Hire a Lawyer in Such Cases

    With so much complexity and potential money on the line after an aviation disaster like the Singapore Airlines turbulence incident, having qualified legal representation is absolutely crucial for injured passengers. This is not something to tackle alone or with just any personal injury lawyer. Specialized aviation attorneys need to be hired who truly understand the intricate international laws and treaties involved.

    Navigating the Legally Turbulent Skies

    Securing damages from an international air carrier requires extensive knowledge of the guidelines laid out in multilateral conventions like Montreal. As outlined above, there are very specific procedures and definitions regarding:

    • What legally qualifies as an “accident”
    • Calculating allowable compensatory damages
    • Proving emotional “bodily injury” claims
    • Establishing grounds for punitive damages
    • Interpreting aviation industry standards of care

    General personal injury attorneys simply don’t have that specialized aviation law expertise. Attempting to litigate a case under domestic laws or without understanding the nuances could severely undermine the passengers’ claims from the start.

    Building a Meticulous Case

    Aviation cases also require painstakingly gathering evidence and meticulously building a case that proves either:

    1) The facts meet the international definitions for liability and damages

    2) The airline violated recognized industry safety standards through negligence

    This means compelling arguments must be made using highly technical data like:

    • Flight data recordings
    • Air traffic control communications
    • Meteorological conditions analysis
    • Plane maintenance and history records
    • Crew training certifications and procedures

    Having lawyers experienced in aviation law ensures this critical evidence gets properly collected, analyzed by qualified experts, and presented persuasively. One misstep and the entire foundation of the case could crumble.

    Aviation litigators also know the precise steps for providing the required legal notifications and demands to launch international claims correctly. Missing those could prevent cases from ever moving forward.

    Negotiating from a Position of Strength

    Perhaps most importantly, having prominent aviation lawyers involved signals to the airline’s insurer that the passengers are positioning for the strongest possible litigation. This incentivizes the defense to negotiate reasonable settlement terms from the outset rather than trying to underpay based on hopes the passengers lack the resources for a protracted legal battle.

    Experienced aviation counsel conveys that any initial lowball offers will be met with overwhelming firepower carrying the case through to a hard-fought trial if needed. Conversely, having underqualified representatives gives the impression the passengers may be more inclined to accept quckier but lower settlement figures.

    Airlines and insurers recognize the top aviation litigators by reputation and performance record. They know those lawyers have successfully litigated multi-million and even billion-dollar payouts before. That’s formidable leverage to have when pushing for maximum compensation.

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