The tragic events of recent news lead us to respond more and more often to the general public’s questions about the terms and amounts of compensation for passengers’ families.
So, it should be recalled that in international air transport, the liability regime stems from the 1999 Montreal Convention (for flights between signatory countries) and a 1997 European regulation, amended in 2002, applicable to European carriers.
Without going into detail, this regime is based on the principle of presumption of carrier liability in the event of an air accident, which means that airlines are automatically liable for accidents resulting in the death of, or injury to, their passengers without it being necessary to prove fault on their part.
As regards the amount of compensation awarded in cases of death, carriers and their insurers generally tend to favour settlement discussions in order to reach an agreement on the amount of compensation for the damages, economic and moral, suffered by the families.
The legislation limits compensation from carriers at 113,100 *SDR’s per passenger (the Montreal Convention threshold, currently corresponding to approximately € 145,000), over and above which, the carriers may attempt to exonerate themselves of liability by demonstrating that they had taken all measures to avoid the injury sustained, or, that it was impossible to take them. In this way therefore, compensation may be carried out on a case by case basis, depending on the personal and professional situation of the victim, together with the extent of damages to his / her beneficiaries.
Let us also remember that within the European Regulations, and to provide immediate material aid to the victims, an advance of not less than 16,000 *SDR’s (€ 20,500), in the case of death, must be paid by the carrier, within 15 days from the identification of the persons entitled to compensation.
Compensation from the airline itself (or aircraft owner), for reimbursement of the destroyed aircraft is normally carried out fairly quickly ; the difficulty consists, in some cases, to determine whether the accident is part of a standard risk, or one of so-called war (including cases of terrorism, unlawful taking control of the aircraft or a "malicious act", for example). As for damage to the aircraft, these specific risks in fact, relate solely to, in most cases, separate specific policies and insurers.