Lufthansa Airlines Exposed to Unlimited Liability for the 150 People Who Died In the Airline Crash in the French Alps

Lufthansa is the owner and operator of Germanwings, which operated Flight 9525 — the plane that crashed on March 24, 2015, killing all those on board. The investigation that followed the crash found that the copilot had locked out the pilot from entering the cockpit and directed the plane to crash into a mountain.

Under a treaty that governs deaths and injuries aboard international flights, airline operators are required to pay relatives of victims for proven damages up to a limit currently set at $157,000 regardless of what caused the crash.

But higher compensation is possible if a carrier is held liable. To avoid carrier liability, it has to prove that the crash was not due to “negligence or other wrongful act” by its employees according to Article 21 of the 1999 Montreal Convention.

In this case, the argument that the carrier was not at fault would be difficult given the facts surrounding the locking out of the pilot and the intentional acts of the copilot crashing the plane. The CEO of Lufthansa has said that the airline would honor “international arrangements regulating liability.” The airline is offering up to $54,800 per passenger to relatives of the victims, which is separate from what may become the eventual compensation payments to families of those who were lost in this crash.

The Germanwings Flight 9525 was departing from Barcelona, Spain, to Düsseldorf, Germany.

The jurisdictions for the cases that may be filed are Germany or Spain. French law may also be applied because that’s where the airline crashed.

Damages are usually much lower in European countries than in the United States; in domestic air crashes, U.S. juries have awarded plaintiffs sometimes millions of dollars per passenger.

Three of the victims in the crash are Americans. Their families could file suit in a United States court. Article 33 of the Montreal Convention states that a passenger’s principal and permanent residence is used to determine jurisdiction for lawsuits regarding passenger deaths or injuries.

Damages for victims will also depend on the loss of financial support in cases where the victim may have been the breadwinner for the family. The families of a person killed in this crash could sue for future lost income.

Investigation into where lawsuits may be filed and compensation is ongoing.

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling product liability cases, car accident cases, wrongful death cases and truck accident cases for individuals and families who have been harmed, injured or died as a result of the carelessness or negligence of another for more than 38 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Chicago Ridge, Worth, Palos Heights, Orland Park, Oak Park, Berwyn, Cicero, Joliet, Aurora, St. Charles, Geneva, Chicago (West Loop, Wrigleyville, Roseland, Printer’s Row, Chinatown, Near North Side, DePaul University area, Canaryville, Hegewisch, Horner Park, Humboldt Park), Schaumburg, Skokie and Round Lake Beach, Ill.

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