The Montreal Convention and Air Disaster Compensation

International air travel presents some unique legal problems, including jurisdiction and the ability of the injured to recover. In many cases, the corporate headquarters of an airline might be in one country, passengers might be from another country, and the accident may occur in a third country altogether. The Montreal Convention of 1999 is one of the most important developments in international law to address air disaster compensation for accidents involving states that are parties to the convention.

What is the Montreal Convention?

The Montreal Convention is a treaty adopted by member states of the International Civil Aviation Organization [ICAO], a United Nations agency responsible for establishing standards and regulations for international air navigation. Nearly all of the UN member states, including the United States, are members of the ICAO. Treaties require ratification before they take effect. At present, 120 countries have ratified the Montreal Convention, including the United States.

The Montreal Convention expanded upon the Warsaw Convention's earlier set of rules establishing standards for the international transport of passengers, baggage, and cargo. The new treaty's most significant portions relate to the liability of air carriers when an accident occurs. Prior to the Montreal Convention, injured passengers would frequently need to establish that the airline's willful neglect was the cause of the injury. The modifications made by the treaty were intended to reduce litigation and simplify the claims process.

Montreal Convention and Damages

The Montreal Convention eliminates the need to establish an airline's negligence for claims of up to 100,000 special drawing rights (SDR). SDR are an international monetary value set by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that helps ensure that the strict liability damages limits are consistent regardless of the currency of the claim. As of December, 2016 one SDR was equivalent to 1.34 U.S. Dollars.

The Montreal Convention also establishes that the airline can avoid liability for claims of more than 11,100 SDR by establishing that the accident causing the damage was not due to their negligence.

The Montreal Convention rejects claims for compensation based upon emotional and psychological damage and requires airlines to carry liability insurance. The Convention also provides for the possibility of unlimited liability in the event of death or injury of passengers, advanced payment on claims, and increased liability for airlines if they create delays in the payment of claims. Additionally, the convention contains provisions relating to lost or damaged luggage and damages for delays of passengers or luggage if the airline failed to take reasonable measures to prevent the delay.

Montreal Convention and Jurisdiction

The Montreal Convention extends the jurisdictional provisions of the Warsaw Convention. Under the Montreal Convention an injured party or their family has jurisdiction to sue foreign airline carriers in the place where they hold their principal residence.

Get a Free Claim Assessment

Although the Montreal Convention was intended to simplify the process of claiming compensation following an air disaster, an incident of an international nature can easily become complicated or confusing. An experienced lawyer can help simplify matters by handling the necessary communications on your behalf. Contact a local attorney to schedule a free review of your claim to discuss how they can help.

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