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October 1st 2021

Airline Accident

Woman left in ‘excruciating pain’ and bleeding after glass bottle falls from overhead locker on plane and hits her on the head

Lucy Bevis

Lucy Bevis

Litigation Executive, Travel

Woman left in ‘excruciating pain’ and bleeding after glass bottle falls from overhead locker on plane and hits her on the head

Our expert travel lawyers have helped a woman claim compensation after a duty-free bottle of spirits fell from an overhead locker of a plane and hit her on the head.

Our expert travel lawyers have helped a woman claim compensation after a duty-free bottle of spirits fell from an overhead locker of a plane and hit her on the head.

The woman, 55, from London, who was onboard a British Airways flight from Gatwick to Jamaica, described being in “excruciating pain” after the incident caused continuous bleeding from her head wound.

After the aeroplane had landed in Kingston, the seatbelt signs were turned off and our client stood up to leave the aircraft. However, she was asked to sit back down and, as she did so, a member of the cabin crew opened the overhead locker and the duty-free glass bottle fell out and hit her on the scalp.

The woman tried to use paper towels to stop the bleeding, but it persisted and she was taken in a wheelchair to the airport nurse, who advised her she needed stitches.

She was taken to a local hospital on the Caribbean island where part of the woman’s hair had to be shaved to enable the wound to be stitched. She then returned to the hospital one week later to have the sutures removed.

The woman, who had jetted out to Jamaica because of a family bereavement, suffered ongoing headaches and scalp tenderness two years after the incident, and she also has a scar which luckily is covered by her hairline.

Accident abroad claim cited Montreal Convention in case against British Airways

After returning to the UK, the woman instructed our expert accident abroad specialists to make a claim for compensation due to her ongoing symptoms.

Lucy Bevis, Litigation Executive in our Travel team at Hudgell Solicitors, helped the woman step by step through her claim against the airline.

She said: “As in many of the cases we take on, a medical expert carried out a report on my client’s injuries to help us work out how much compensation she was entitled to.

“The airline’s solicitor stated that the woman’s ongoing headaches and tenderness could be caused by a combination of her psychological or physiological injuries.

“The Montreal Convention, which allows you to bring a personal injury claim for an accident in the air, permits recovery for ‘bodily injury’ only. However, in the case of Doe V Etihad, the court allowed a psychological injury to be recovered because it was caused by a physical injury.

“In this case, even if part of our client’s ongoing symptoms were psychological, they arose from a bodily injury and therefore there was an argument that all her ongoing problems should be considered in her claim for compensation.”

How the Montreal Convention helps passengers after suffering in-flight accidents

Airline travel is governed by the Montreal Convention, which imposes a form of strict liability on airlines when it comes to death or personal injury during a flight or when in the process of embarking or disembarking.

What this means is that you do not necessarily have to prove fault. However, the person making a claim for damages must establish that there has been an accident.

To be a qualifying accident under the Convention, there must be an ‘unexpected or unusual event or happening that is external to the passenger’.

In this case, our client had a cause of action under Article 29 of the Montreal Convention as a passenger engaged in international carriage, and she was also subject to an accident which was an ‘unexpected event external to her’ under Article 17.1 of the Convention. Therefore, it was alleged, the airline was liable for our client’s injuries and losses.

British Airways admitted full liability for the accident and the case was settled without the need to issue court proceedings, with Ms Bevis securing her client a four-figure damages sum in accident abroad compensation.

The woman, who wished to remain anonymous, left Ms Bevis a five-star client review after her accident abroad case had been concluded, in which she praised her “outstanding handling” of her claim and how she “was very supportive throughout the entire process”.

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