Who is responsible when someone is injured in an airport? If your injury occurs inside the plane, it's fairly safe to say that the responsible party is the company that owns the plane, but what if you're injured while going to and from the plane? The issue isn't always clear. If you were injured in an airport, this is what you should know before you file a claim.
There is a significant safety threat to people on the ground in airports.
Airports aren't very safe places. People get injured inside the airport itself trying to catch flights and gathering luggage and the dangers of an accident on the tarmac to and from the plane is probably more significant than people realize. Ramp accidents, for example, are very prevalent. While ramp injuries only occur about once out of every 1,000 departures, multiple people—an average of 9 at a time—are often injured at once when they do happen.
There are other significant risks to travelers as well. A fall on heavily waxed airport floors can end up causing limb fractures and head injuries. People can get hurt on moving sidewalks and escalators that are poorly maintained, malfunctioning, or missing handrails. There has even been a case of a woman who was struck by lightening when she was darting for safety from the plane to the terminal after being forced to leave the relative safety of the airplane she'd arrived on during an oncoming storm.
You need to make sure that you're filing suit against the right entity.
This is a critical issue, because if you sue the wrong party for your injuries you could find yourself starting over from scratch once the court rejects your claim. Worse, you could also find yourself unable to recover for your injuries at all, if the statute of limitations has expired by the time you figure out who is the correct responsible party. The statute of limitations controls how long you have to file an injury lawsuit—in some states, that's as little as 1 year.
It may not be easy to determine exactly who is at fault when an accident occurs. It may depend a lot on where you were at when the accident happened—something called "premise liability" generally puts the liability for certain injuries on the person or company that owns the property where the accident occurred. If the accident was a fall due to shoddy carpeting in the airport lounge, for example, the airport transit authority may be the entity in charge of maintaining that part of the airport (not the airline).
In other cases, it may be the people who were in control of the situation that confers liability. The legal doctrine called "respondeat superior" puts the responsibility for injuries caused by employee negligence back on the employer. If for example, an airline employee instructs you up a ramp before it's been checked for stability, that could make the airline, not the airport, responsible for your fall.
Liability could even be shared between the airline and the airport. For example, in the case of the woman who was hit by lightning, attorneys are suing both the airport and the individual airline she had used for forcing her into the path of danger and not having proper safety precautions in place for an obvious danger.
If you've been injured in an airport, talk to a personal injury attorney (such as one from Whiting, Hagg, Hagg, Dorsey & Hagg) as soon as possible. It may take a little investigation to determine who exactly is liable for your injuries and you don't want to wait to file.