New York City, NY top attorney, handles airline injuries & death, MTA, bus accidents, wrongful death, construction, medical malpractice, and doctors errors cases. Attorney Jonathan C. Reiter consistently delivers results.
The number of commercial aviation accidents has decreased over the past decade, which is good news for the millions of people that travel every year.
However, the bad news is that when these accidents occur, they often cause serious injuries, and passengers that are lucky to escape with their lives often find that they must deal with long-term health issues.
Most of us are aware that major aviation crashes can cause death and catastrophic injuries, but the truth is that there is another cause of injuries that don’t get as much attention.
This hidden threat is one that is stored in the overhead compartment: luggage.
While it may seem odd that luggage would be a danger to passengers, forensic studies have found that items in overhead storage that fall onto a passenger can cause serious injuries, including brain damage, cerebral concussion and cervical spine injuries.
Types of In-Flight Injuries
Falling luggage is categorized as one of several types of in-flight injuries that can occur when passengers are traveling on a commercial aircraft.
Other types of in-flight injuries include:
- Injuries due to turbulence – When a commercial aircraft goes through turbulence, the resulting shaking can bounce passengers off their seats, and even cause them to hit their heads on the ceiling.
- Injuries due to meal service tray – Injuries can also occur if a meal service tray is improperly positioned and rolls into a passenger. These injuries can also occur during a bout of turbulence.
- Injuries due to objects on the floor – If a flight attendant drops an object that caused a passenger to fall or twist an ankle, that fall can cause an injury.
Falling Luggage Injuries
Falling luggage injuries can result from several different circumstances. For example, an overhead compartment that has been stuffed with items that exceed the recommended storage capacity can burst open, causing heavy luggage to fall on passengers.
In some instances, overhead compartments that were not properly closed can cause luggage to fall and result in injuries to passengers and flight attendants.
One of the reasons that many commercial airlines have restricted carry-on bags to 40 pounds or less is to limit the type of injuries these bags can cause if they fall from their storage bins.
A recent study on this issue found that there is an estimated 4,500 falling luggage injuries each year and that these bags fall because they shift during a flight into dangerous positions, or because overhead bins are loaded beyond capacity. ¹
The challenge is that commercial airline passengers are now stowing more than just luggage in overhead bins.
In fact, it’s not unusual to see passengers placing strollers, sports equipment, skateboards and other hard objects into a space that should be reserved for baggage only. When the overhead compartments are opened at the end of a flight, these objects may roll, slide or fall out of the bins onto passengers, causing serious injuries. Some airlines restrict the ability of passengers to bring these objects on board for safety reasons and instead require them to be checked. However, many airlines ignore the safety hazards posed by these objects and take the position that they are only responsible to see that the bins will close when the aircraft takes off. This attitude can have devastating consequences for passengers.
Items that fall from overhead storage can cause neck injuries, shoulder injuries, and even traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), the most common of which are concussions.
After a plane has landed, flight attendants often warn passengers to be careful when opening the overhead bins because items tend to shift during flight, but that doesn’t prevent injuries that occur when the overhead storage bursts open without warning, or an object rolls or slides out of the overhead compartment as soon as the bin is opened.
In-Flight Injury Liability
When falling luggage injures a passenger, an investigation must determine in-flight injury liability.
Under the common carrier rule, airlines are held to a high duty of care towards their passengers, which means that they must take reasonable care to ensure that none of their procedures, operations, or guidelines causes injury, harm, or loss to passengers. Airlines have an obligation to supervise the stowage of luggage in overhead compartments to prevent inappropriate objects, skateboards, or luggage from falling and injuring passengers.
Determining liability in the case of falling luggage that causes injuries depends upon the circumstances of the event.
For example, was the overhead compartment filled beyond capacity? Did a passenger open a compartment without taking the care necessary to prevent the injury from occurring to another passenger?
Was the weight of the bag or bags that caused the injury greater than the 40-pound limit that most airlines have established as the maximum for carry-on luggage?
Was the object inappropriately placed or stored in the overhead bin when it should have been checked through. This issue is particularly applicable to sports equipment, skateboards, and other hard objects that can cause serious injuries if they fall.
It’s impossible to determine liability without answering these questions, but it’s important to remember that negligence will always come down to whether the airline violated the basic duty of care necessary to prevent injury, harm, or loss.
Aviation Accidents Attorney
Victims of in-flight injuries have the right to consult with an aviation accidents attorney near them to ensure that they protect their legal rights. An experienced personal injury trial lawyer can determine how to best proceed with a civil claim.
Manhattan In-Flight Accident Lawyer Jonathan C. Reiter T: 212-736-0979
Prior results cannot and do not guarantee or predict a similar outcome with respect to any future case. Recoveries always depend upon the facts and circumstances of each case, the injuries suffered, damages incurred, and the responsibility of those involved.