Inflight Turbulence Injuries

Many consider air travel to be safer than traveling in a car or train. Though, airline passengers can experience inflight injuries more frequently than someone may anticipate.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, approximately 58 people experience inflight injuries every year because of turbulence making it the leading cause. Some people sustain injuries from improperly stowed baggage falling from overhead bins as well. Inflight injuries range from passengers and flight attendees hitting their heads on the passenger cabin wall during turbulence to tripping and falling on the way to the restroom. Despite being nonfatal injuries, it is fundamental for passengers to know their rights if they sustain an inflight injury.

In some instances, the airline, the plane’s manufacturer, and the manufacturer of a defective aircraft can be held responsible for inflight injuries. However, these types of cases can be very complex because different regulations dictate whether a victim of an inflight injury is eligible for monetary compensation. If you are injured, it is essential to be represented by a leading aviation attorney to protect your rights and maximize compensation.

Turbulence Explained

Almost all air travelers have experienced some turbulence during a flight. Even though turbulence can be very light and moderate for the most part, in some instances, it can cause severe damage, including whiplash, PTSD, and traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Turbulence is described as air movement that, for the most part, cannot be seen. Different factors cause turbulence, such as cold or warm weather fronts, thunderstorms, atmospheric pressures, the air around mountains, and jet streams. It can even occur when weather conditions seem perfect, widely known within the aviation industry as “Clean Air Turbulence”. Turbulence is often experienced with little to no harm as it is a normal phenomenon. Though, it can sometimes cause injuries on flight passengers and crew members, especially when they are not wearing seat belts as they can be thrown out of their seats.

As a result, the FAA mandates that all air travelers must be seated with their belts on when:

  • The plane departs the gate and begins its route for takeoff
  • Any time the fasten seat belt sign is on
  • When landing

Turbulence Facts

Turbulence is the leading cause of inflight injuries among nonfatal aviation accidents.

  • It is estimated that in the United States, nearly 58 people are injured every year while not wearing their seat belts during turbulence.
  • From 1980 to 2008, there were 234 turbulence incidents reported by U.S. airlines, in which 298 people incurred serious injuries, and three people died. A total of 184 of the severe injuries were flight attendants, with passengers accounting for the remaining 114. Of the three deaths reported, two occurred because the passengers failed to fasten their belts while the seat belt sign was on.
  • Based on data from the FAA, two-thirds of turbulence accidents occur at or above 30,000 feet.

More Causes of Inflight Injuries

Falls: Many passengers have suffered from broken angles and other injuries after colliding with improperly stored objects and failing when walking through the passenger cabin

Food and Beverage Carts: Several passengers have incurred injuries when hit in the shoulders, elbows, and other body parts by moving food and beverage carts. Passengers can also be hit by a cart when walking through the cabin.

Overhead Bins: It is estimated that nearly 4,500 passengers and crew members are injured every year around the world when hit by a falling item from the overhead storage bins. This averages to 12 injuries per day.

Inflight Injury and Negligence

Passengers may be able to sue the airline for negligence after incurring an inflight injury. If the inflight injury occurred because of carelessness or inattention from airline employees like pilots, flight attendants, maintenance workers, or ground crew members, you may be able to claim negligence against the airline in a lawsuit.

Airlines are obligated to protect their passengers and employees from injuries. They must act with a high degree of care and follow safety steps to protect their passengers and employees from any harm from the moment they set foot on and leave the plane.

Some examples of airline negligence include:

  • Passengers falling or tripping with an object left by the flight crew when walking through the aisle
  • Passengers being hit with a bag after flight crew failing to close an overhead bin properly
  • Passengers being hit by bottles after the flight crew failing to properly store them, causing them to fly out
  • Personnel being poorly trained by airline
  • Lack of adequate policies enacted by the airline to ensure passenger safety
  • Failing to illuminate the fasten seat belt sign and then announcing to passengers that the sign has been turned on and that they must return to their seats and buckle up

Unforeseen Events

Airlines cannot be held liable for accidents that occur because of unforeseen events. This category often includes turbulence because airlines cannot predict and/or anticipate turbulence, particularly clean air turbulence. Airlines also cannot be sued if a passenger is injured from turbulence after the flight crew has taken all safety procedures to protect those on board the flight.

However, airlines can be held liable if the flight crew failed to warm the passengers by turning the fasten seat belt sign on or announcing turbulence soon after foreseen it.

Inflight Injuries From Product Liability

Even though most inflight injuries occur because of airline negligence, some may be caused by problems with the plane itself or parts of the aircraft. Given these conditions, passengers can file a product liability claim against the manufacturer of a defective plane or part.

Some examples of product liability claims include:

  • A defective overhead bin latch becomes loose, enabling luggage to fall on passengers
  • A defective restroom door suddenly opening and hitting a passenger
  • A defective loading ramp causing passengers to fall
  • A defective “jump seat” (seats that flight attendants sit on) that malfunctioned, causing the seat to collapse to the ground during landing, causing severe back injuries to the two flight attendants occupying them (this scenario was litigated by Wilshire Law Firm attorney Ilyas Akbari arising out of the crash landing of Continental Airlines Flight 1404 in Denver, Colorado)

What To Do After Experiencing An Inflight Injury

It is fundamental for air travelers to know their rights if they experience an inflight injury, as many parties can be held liable for the accident. No matter who the responsible party is or what caused the accident, victims may be able to receive compensation. While in-flight injury cases are very complex due to the many different rules that govern whether a victim is entitled to monetary compensation, Wilshire Law Firm’s aviation department has substantial experience in successfully litigating these types of cases worldwide.

Inflight Injury Cases Represented By Lawyers From The Wilshire Law Firm:

  • Southwest Airlines Flight 1380 – April 17, 2018 – Inflight Emergency
  • JetBlue Flight 1416 – September 18, 2014 – Inflight Emergency
  • U.S. Airways Flight 797 – November 8, 2011 – Inflight Incident
  • Southwest Airlines Flight 812 – April 1, 2011 – Inflight Fuselage Rupture
  • U.S. Airways Flight 583 – February 24, 2011 – Inflight Incident (Depressurization)
  • United Airlines Flight 967 – July 20, 2010 – Inflight Turbulence
  • United Airlines Flight 1028 – January 21, 2008 – Inflight Turbulence

For assistance with an inflight injury, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our aviation specialists at 888-276-7421.

The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.


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