How to Sue an Airline for Injuries

by | Dec 15, 2022 | Premises Liability

Male passenger releasing seat belt while sitting on the airplane preparing to get off. concept of a safe flight. safety while driving. turbulence during flight

By taking the right steps to build a case, you may be able to sue an airline for injuries sustained during a flight. Although planes are generally safer and many people are booking flights because of declining ticket prices, in-flight accidents and negligence can happen that may warrant legal action.

If you want to sue an airline for in-flight injuries, it’s best to know what kinds of accidents may occur and the steps you’ll need to take if you want to build a successful case.

Suing an Airline for Injuries

In the event of an accident and in-flight injuries sustained at some point during a flight, you may be able to build a case against the airline for negligence in some cases. The ability to sue an airline will depend on a number of factors pertaining to your case, namely whether the airline was negligent and whether this negligence directly contributed to your injuries and other damages.

The following are some items to keep in mind if you wish to file a lawsuit against an airline:

You Cannot Sue for Events That Are Unpreventable or Unforeseeable

Some accidents and injuries may result from mass transit accidents that either common or private carriers simply cannot predict. They may take all necessary steps to provide passengers with safe transportation, in which case they wouldn’t be liable if accidents occurred that they couldn’t have reasonably anticipated.

For example, if a plane reaches high altitudes to the point where oxygen masks deploy, the airline may not be liable if a passenger refuses to wear an oxygen mask and subsequently suffers hypoxia, which occurs when the brain doesn’t receive enough oxygen.

Generally, if the airline took the necessary steps to create a safe space for passengers, it won’t be responsible if an accident occurs at any point during the flight.

Proving Negligence May Be Easier With Common Carriers

Although you may not have a case if the airline didn’t exhibit negligence, you may have an easier time proving negligence if it did occur due to the fact that airlines are common carriers.

Compared to private carriers, common carriers owe a higher duty of care to individuals, which may put them at greater risk of liability if they fail to meet these standards of care. Like private carriers, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has legislation in place that determines the standard of care for common carriers. This standard of care provides guidelines for all employees to help prevent avoidable accidents and injuries before, during, and after a flight.

If you decide to file a suit against an airline, the court will consider the standard of care in accordance with FAA legislation.

International Flights Have Different Rules and Regulations

Because international flights cross over into different countries and territories, they’re subject to changing rules and regulations if an accident occurs. For instance, while you may be able to seek a higher settlement amount in one country, the amount of compensation you’re able to seek may be lower in another. These limitations and rules could make it more challenging for you to build a case and recover the full compensation you deserve.

Recovering Compensation Requires Proof of Negligence

Similar to other tort cases, you will need to prove that an airline was negligent and that this negligence caused harm to you or a loved one during a flight.

Specifically, you must be able to prove the following items before you can recover compensation in an airline accident case:

  • The airline owed a duty of care, which is easier to prove with common carriers
  • The airline breached this duty of care through negligence, such as failing to provide proper safety devices or guidance during a flight
  • You sustained quantifiable damages such as injuries, financial losses, and pain and suffering
  • The airline’s breach of duty of care and negligence caused the damages you sustained

For example, an instance of negligence may be the failure to advise passengers to stay seated at key moments when the plane is in motion, whether the plane is experiencing turbulence or about to land.

You would need ample evidence to prove negligence, including photographs or videos relating to the accident, witness statements, and other forms of key documentation that show how the airline was negligent.

Common Causes of In-Flight Injuries

During a flight, you may be at risk of sustaining different types of injuries depending on the specific circumstances involved. Although the FAA provides specific guidelines for employees and passengers to maximize in-flight safety, accidents may still take place that could involve negligence on the part of airlines, manufacturers, or airline employees.

Some of the most common types of in-flight accidents and injuries include:


One common cause of in-flight accidents is turbulence, which occurs when the plane experiences certain changes in altitude. The plane can drop or shake, causing passengers and employees to lose their balance. As a result, individuals might hit their heads on objects or fall during the flight if they’re not seated when the plane is experiencing turbulence. Even if passengers are in their seats, turbulence may knock them out of their seats if they’re not wearing a seatbelt.

Passengers may sustain a variety of injuries from turbulence accidents, including broken bones and fractures, head injuries, bruises, and scrapes.

Food Service Accidents

Other accidents may involve food or drink services in different capacities. For instance, an unattended food or drink cart could roll down the aisles and hit a passenger. A flight attendant may also spill a hot beverage on a passenger and cause burns. Some food may also contain nuts or other potential allergens that cause an allergic reaction in patients, potentially to the point where the patient requires hospitalization.

Flights must also have food that’s not yet expired, or spoiled food might cause food poisoning that can also be life-threatening in extreme cases.

Accidents Involving Luggage

Many people bring luggage with them onto their flights, which can put people at risk of injuries if those items fall or otherwise hit passengers during a flight. Overhead compartments should be consistently secure to prevent luggage from falling and hitting passengers. Backpacks, purses, and other items stored underneath seats must also remain secure at all times.

Passengers may sustain a wide range of injuries from luggage accidents. Carry-on items can cause everything from lacerations and broken bones to skull fractures and brain injuries. When hit in the head, passengers may not realize they’ve sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI) until they’ve noticed certain signs of a brain injury after the flight completes, and they exit the plane.

Medical Emergencies

In some cases, passengers may suffer cardiac arrests or other medical conditions that may warrant an emergency landing. In these instances, pilots must do what they can to land the plane safely and let ground control know of the situation. While some emergencies may be treatable using in-flight equipment, others may require the pilot to find a safe area to land other than the original destination. Failure to take the proper steps in the event of a medical event could make the airline liable for resulting injuries.

Do You Need a Lawyer to Sue an Airline?

Building a case against an airline is often challenging. You must be able to prove negligence in these cases and show how the airline’s negligence led to injuries in an in-flight accident. To ensure you maximize your chances of succeeding with a case, it’s best to hire an experienced lawyer to sue an airline.

A lawyer can meet with you in a free consultation to discuss your case and determine what options are available to you. He or she can also inform you of your rights and may be able to provide representation. An attorney can also answer any questions you have in depth, such as “how much is a slip and fall injury worth?” You’ll be able to better understand the ins and outs of your case as you proceed to prepare a case against an airline.

Attorneys can also assist in gathering different types of evidence to build a successful case. For example, your lawyer might be able to get a hold of other passengers and crew members who witnessed an in-flight accident and obtain statements from each. He or she may also be able to acquire photographic or video evidence showing the accident and illustrating how negligence caused it. The attorney can then organize this evidence to prepare a successful suit against the negligent airline.

If you wish to sue an airline, taking the proper steps will help you prove negligence. Suing an airline may not be easy, but if you have a valid case, you may have legal options that can help you recover full compensation from negligent airlines, staff, or manufacturers responsible for in-flight accidents and injuries.


FindLaw Network

$2,300,000 – Brain Injury
$650,000 – Motor Vehicle Accident
$800,000 – Construction Injury
$570,000 – Medical Malpractice

$4,300,000 – Medical Malpractice
$4,100,000 – Construction
$4,000,000 – Medical Malpractice
$3,000,000 – Vehicle Accident

$950,000 – Birth Injury Malpractice
$5,860,000 Medical Malpractice – Wrongful Death
$1,800,000 – Product Liability
$4,000,000 – Medical Malpractice

$3,000,000 – Vehicle Accident
$950,000 – Birth Injury Malpractice
$7,500,000 – Premises Liability

Watch Our Videos:

Learn about our firm and how our expertise in personal injury cases will ensure that you receive the best possible outcome to your case.