Accidents Abroad

What are your rights if you suffer in-flight injuries on a plane?

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Anne Thomson

Litigation Executive

6 min read time
05 Apr 2023

Flying may be one of the safest forms of transport, but when an accident takes place onboard an aircraft it can cause a great deal of distress.

Depending on how serious the injury is, and the subsequent pain it causes, it could ruin your foreign holiday or important business trip.

Unfortunately, passengers who are injured on an aircraft often don’t understand their rights or the fact they may be able to claim compensation for the accident which was not their fault.

Can I sue an airline for in-flight injuries?

In short, the answer is yes, you may be eligible to make a holiday injury claim if you are injured in an accident on an airline or at an airport.

The main reason for making a claim is to compensate you for any pain and suffering you experience, any financial loss caused such as loss of earnings and, if required, any rehabilitative treatment and care needed.

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The most common accidents on a plane are:

  • Items falling from overhead lockers causing injury
  • Hot liquid spills causing burns or discomfort
  • Accidents or injuries caused by actions of cabin crew, such as being hit by a drinks trolley
  • Food served with insufficient allergy information
  • Avoidable slips, trips or falls within the aircraft
  • Injuries or accidents caused by actions of other passengers
  • Accidents involving the airport shuttle bus or transportation

Claims can be made for accidents which take place during take-off, mid-flight or landing.

In some cases, you may be able to bring a case for an injury suffered at the airport itself, either during the departure or disembarking process. Much will depend on where the accident occurs and whether you were in the process of embarking or disembarking from the aircraft.

Examples include:

  • Avoidable slips, trips or falls on the way to the departure gate
  • Accidents involving airport crew or transport
  • Injury caused by planes colliding with terminal or docking steps

Airlines are ‘strictly liable’ for your safety under the Montreal Convention

In most cases, airline compensation claims are made under the Montreal Convention – a powerful, pro-consumer law which protects people injured in an accident during international air travel.

Under the Convention, passengers are usually entitled to pursue an accident on holiday claim for compensation in their home country against the airline.

According to law, an airline accident is defined as a distinct event which is ‘unusual’ or ‘unexpected’ – and not as a result of a passenger’s physical reaction to flying (e.g. hearing loss or deep vein thrombosis claims are not compensable).

If a passenger is injured in an accident during an international flight, the airline is “strictly liable” under the Montreal Convention and there is no need to prove the airline has been “negligent”.

The passenger only needs to prove an accident or fatality occurred on board the aircraft (or while embarking and disembarking) – and that the Convention applies to that particular type of accident.

Normally, there is a two-year time period from the date of the accident in which to bring a claim. However, it is advisable to make a claim at the earliest opportunity as this helps with evidence gathering and may improve the chances of success.

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How we’ve supported clients who’ve had accidents on planes

A woman injured on a flight to London was awarded £143,000, the maximum compensation for the nature of her claim, after being diagnosed with long-term health issues after another passenger’s hand luggage fell onto her head as she slept in her seat.

The fellow traveller had opened an overhead locker on the flight into Heathrow and was attempting to take out a rucksack which contained a laptop. However, it was dropped and hit the woman on her head .

Read more: Woman injured when luggage fell from overhead locker awarded £143,000 

In another case an eight-year-old girl who was scalded by a cup of spilt tea on a Ryanair flight as she flew back to the UK was also successfully represented by Hudgell Solicitors and awarded damages.

Her father claimed “the nightmare” incident happened as a member of the cabin crew failed to properly secure the cup’s lid which left the child screaming out in pain when it spilt onto her legs and stomach as she sat in her seat.

Read more: Court agrees compensation award for child scalded by hot drink on flight

Another of our clients was awarded compensation of £11,125 when, mid-flight and as he slept, a drinks trolley being pushed down the aisle by a cabin crew member hit and injured his knee.

Our client was travelling with British Airways when the onboard accident happened and had to leave the plane in a wheelchair.

Read more: Traveller whose knee was injured when a drinks trolley hit him mid-flight awarded damages

Holiday accident claims can also be made for injuries suffered on buses taking passengers to the airport or to the plane from the boarding gate.

One client was awarded £10,000 damages after being thrown from her seat when travelling on a minibus transporting passengers from the airport to board the plane.

The woman had been on her way back to the UK following a holiday in Tenerife when the bus, which had no workable seatbelts, stopped suddenly and caused her to fall off her seat and to the floor.

Read more: Holidaymaker awarded £10,000 damages for injuries after fall on transport bus at airport

How to pursue an accident on a plane claim

At Hudgell Solicitors, we deal with all types of accidents abroad – from serious road traffic accidents to airline accident cases – where people have been injured whilst innocently going about their business.

We understand that holiday accidents, and their implications, can affect both you and your loved ones – and we promise to take the worry and hassle out of making a claim. The majority of our airline accident cases are conducted on a No Win, No Fee basis – so there is no financial risk to you.

Before accepting a case, we provide a free consultation to determine who was responsible for your injury and whether taking legal action is an appropriate response.

Read more: In-flight Accidents & Injuries


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What are your rights if you suffer in-flight injuries on a plane?

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