Asiana Airlines Flight 214 was an international flight between Seoul and San Francisco. That means the airline’s obligation to compensate its passengers for their injuries is governed by an international treaty known as the Montreal Convention. Here are some of the Convention’s important points, as they apply to Flight 214:
- The Airline must compensate its injured passengers as long as the crash was caused by an "accident." The Convention defines "accident" to include any unexpected event; from an encounter with bad weather, to poor planning on the part of the pilot, to mechanical failure. This crash certainly qualifies as an "accident." The exact cause of the accident doesn’t matter. The passenger does not need to prove that the airline was negligent, or that the airline did anything wrong at all. The airline is automatically required to compensate any injured passenger.
- A passenger who was physically injured is entitled to compensation for his or her emotional distress as well as for the physical injuries. However, a passenger who was not physically injured is not entitled to compensation for emotional distress, no matter how severe the emotional distress may be.
- The cap on an Airlines’ automatic liability under the Montreal Convention is US$170,000. Asiana Airlines may avoid liability for amounts exceeding US$170,000 only if it proves that it was not in any way "negligent or at fault." In this case, it appears that it will be impossible for Asiana to make such a showing. Therefore, there will be no artificial "cap" on Asiana Airline’s obligation to compensate the passengers who were physically injured in the accident.