Payouts For U.S. Germanwings Victims Could Dwarf European Claims

Mar 30, 2015 at 11:16 AM ET

Relatives of American passengers on Germanwings flight that crashed in the French Alps, killing everyone onboard, could get more than 10 times the compensation that loved ones of the European passengers receive. James Healy-Pratt, head of the aviation department at Stewarts Law in London, told The New York Times he has to tell Europeans their settlements are worth less than that of Americans.

According to legal experts, Germanwings is liable for the actions of Andreas Lubitz, the co-pilot who appears to have flown the plane into the ground on purpose. What’s more, the 1999 Montreal Convention dictates that airlines responsible for accidental injury or death on an international flight are liable for at least $170,000 per victim. But aviation lawyers say Germanwings, a subsidiary of Lufthansa, could be responsible for much bigger payouts, depending on where the victims were from.

Most compensation claims are settled out of court, Mike Danko, a plaintiff’s aviation lawyer in California, told The Times, and airlines take into account the country from which passengers can sue and offer compensation that’s usual for a specific country. In Germany, families are usually compensated for burial costs and psychological help. In America, families in this particular case could get up to $10 million, because they can factor in the deceased’s potential income, the needs of their dependents, and other circumstances, said Danko. Passengers on Flight 4U9525 came from 16 different countries. The largest group of passengers from a single country were German. There were three Americans onboard.

Read More:

Germanwings Co-Pilot Had Been Treated for ‘Suicidal Tendencies,’ Authorities Say (New York Times)
Germans Are Furious That Media Identified Germanwings Co-Pilot (Vocativ)
Horrifying transcript gives timeline of Germanwings plane crash in Alps (LA Times)