In-flight injuries are an unfortunately common occurrence on all commercial airlines. While many passengers suffer bumps or bruises that heal in a matter of days, others lose days off work and suffer extreme pain as a result of being struck by improperly stowed luggage. When this happens, a passenger may be able to file a legal claim to recover the costs of the accident.
Common Injuries Caused by Falling or Improperly Stowed Luggage
Thousands of passengers are injured every year as a result of luggage suddenly falling out of overhead bins. While this is the most common way luggage can cause in-flight injuries, passengers can also be hurt by luggage rolling down the aisle or posing a tripping hazard on their way to the restroom.
Improperly stowed luggage can cause a variety of in-flight injuries, including:
- Head injuries. Falling luggage can cause concussions, contusions, or even skull fractures if the passenger’s head is struck with enough force. Falling luggage can also force the passenger’s head forward, backward, or into the window causing secondary injuries.
- Facial injuries. Falling luggage can break noses, cause deep facial lacerations, and cause eye injuries that can result in blindness. Even if these wounds heal, scarring can cause permanent disfigurement, even after facial reconstruction.
- Trips and falls. Carry-on items that have not been stowed properly beneath seats can cause passengers walking in the aisles to trip, especially if straps or handles are not secured. Flight crews should perform regular checks to secure loose items and prevent these kind of injuries from happening.
- Arm and leg injuries. Flight attendants must be careful when assisting passengers in getting their luggage out of bins in order to deplane. Victims can be struck by luggage that is allowed to fall freely by a crew member or another passenger who is in a rush to get off the plane.
- Ankle and foot injuries. A passenger’s leg may become entangled in loose luggage straps or purse handles lying near the aisle, causing twisted ankles or broken toes.
Actions That Lead to Luggage Injuries on Major Airline Flights
Commercial airlines are held to what is known as the “common carrier” standard, which means that they have a heightened duty of care to the people they transport. If the airline (or one of its employees) breached this duty of care, the passenger may be owed damages through a negligence claim.
A passenger may be able to seek damages for injuries caused by:
- Overloading the plane. Airlines are carrying more passengers than ever, and often charge fees for the luggage that is carried onboard. As a result, airlines have an incentive to carry as many items as possible, even when it places passengers in the cabin at undue risk. Flight crews overloading the cabin compartments and ground crew members who fail to load and stack luggage properly in the cargo area may be liable for negligence.
- Faulty latches. Some in-flight injuries are not due to employee error, but rather to manufacturer defects in the plane or its individual components. If a broken latch on an overhead bin sprung open during flight, the fault for the injury may lie with the manufacturer, maintenance and inspection crews, or the distributor of the defective part. Members of the flight crew may also be able to seek compensation for injuries caused by defective components in a product liability claim.
- Inadequate training. Flight attendants must be trained on proper luggage handling and storage to avoid injuries both on calm flights and during turbulence. The airline may be held liable for the actions of its employees (including a pilot deliberately flying into turbulence or an air traffic controller’s mistake in calculating a safe route), or its own negligent operating procedures (such as failing to update outdated safety policies).
At GriffithLaw, we conduct a thorough investigation to determine who is responsible for your airline injury—and we do not collect any legal fees unless we recover compensation for you. Simply fill out the short contact form on this page to set up your no-cost injury consultation, or learn more about your rights in our free guide, The 10 Worst Mistakes You Can Make With Your Tennessee Injury Case.