Aviation is one of the most popular methods of travel. It is not uncommon for Maritime attorneys to develop extensive experience when it comes to Aviation accidents. Maritime attorneys are after all familiar with international treaties and federal common law, and international aviation travel is where international treaties such as the Montreal Convention and its predecessor, the Warsaw Convention, converge with federal common law to form the legal basis for recovery. The board certified maritime attorneys at the law firm of Brais Brais & Rusak with offices in Miami, Florida, Boston, Massachusetts and Houston, Texas are here to help in the event of injury or death due to an accident or crash involving an airplane.
In simplest terms, The Warsaw Convention creates a presumption of liability against the air carrier for injury or death of a passenger engaged in international travel. Certain defenses, however, are available a consequence of which the carrier may avoid liability entirely. Firstly, the Warsaw Convention imposes harsh limitations on the amount of damages one may recover. Additionally, The Warsaw Convention only applies to the air carrier and does not apply to the manufacturer of the airplane or component part manufacturer which may bear responsibility for the loss.
The Warsaw Convention by its terms applies only to a passenger engaged in "international transportation". This is defined in Article 1(2) of the Convention as "any transportation which, according to the contract made by the parties, the place of departure and the place of destination, whether or not there is a break in the transportation or a transshipment, are situated either within the territories of two High Contracting Parties, or within the territory of a single High Contracting Party, if there is an agreed stopping place within a territory subject to the sovereignty, suzerainty, mandate or authority of another power, even though that power is not a power to this convention … ".
For the Warsaw Convention to apply, the airline must deliver to the passenger a ticket containing a "statement that the transportation is subject to the rules relating to liability established by this convention". Further, the ticket must be delivered in time to allow the passenger to take out insurance if he so desires. The Warsaw Convention provides that a plaintiff can file a lawsuit, at his discretion, in one of the following venues: (a) the career's principal place of business; (b) the domicile of the carrier; (c) the career's place of business through which the contract was made; and (d) the place of the destination.
The United States, in recognition of the harsh limitations of the Warsaw Convention, in 1965 gave notice of its intention to no longer follow the Convention. Shortly before this was to occur an interim agreement was entered into by a large number of air carriers which gave birth to what is known as the "Montreal Agreement". Under the Montreal Agreement, air carriers are strictly liable for proven damages up to $100,000.00.
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