The air travel industry in general has a reputation for inconvenience, poor service, and even mismanagement, and the process of traveling by air certainly hasn’t gotten any smoother or easier to trust lately. Some airlines have been defying federal protections for their passengers in case of cancelled or rescheduled flights, violence among passengers is up, and pilots have been making mistakes they attribute to being out of practice.
Minor, everyday forms of airline negligence — overbooking, lost luggage, missed connecting flights, and unlawfully withheld refunds — can usually be handled in small claims court, without the need for legal representation. However, when it comes to any incident involving physical injury or death, survivors should always consult with an airline lawsuit attorney as soon as possible. Medical bills and final expenses after a death can very quickly exceed the limits placed on small claims settlements, let alone what an airline is willing to offer voluntarily. That’s not even accounting for the physical and emotional pain that should be compensated in these kinds of cases.
We’ve talked before about how to sue Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, the birthplace of Delta Airlines. This information may be relevant to you if you were injured on airport premises. In this article, we’ll go into when you can sue Delta Airlines specifically, and what to expect when you do. If at any time you’d prefer to discuss your case directly with a Delta Airlines injury attorney in Georgia, just reach out by phone or chat for a free consultation.
Airport Accidents – Airport Versus Airline Liability
If you get hurt on your way to or from a flight, because you slipped on a puddle, tripped on an obstacle, or had an escalator or shuttle lurch unpredictably under you, who do you sue, the airline or the airport?
In most cases, the answer is the airport. These kinds of accidents happen with some regularity at Hartsfield-Jackson, and there’s not much the individual airlines can do to force more safety-conscious maintenance, so they’re not responsible for the lack of it. There are some situations, however, where airlines do share liability for passenger and bystander injuries sustained at the airport.
The most obvious instance, of course, would be an accident that involves airline property. For example, if you tripped on a damaged step while climbing directly onto your plane, those passenger boarding stairs might belong to the airline rather than the airport itself, so the airline would be responsible for maintaining them.
Like any company, airlines are typically liable for accidents their employees contribute to. So, if a Delta Airlines employee created a hazard that injured you, failed to respond to your injury appropriately, or separated you from an assistive device that you could have used to prevent your injury, you may be able to sue Delta Airlines.
Even if you were injured on airport property away from any Delta Airlines employees, it’s possible that Delta Airlines might share partial liability if their flight delays and prohibitive rescheduling policies forced you to rush from one gate to another, and your haste contributed to the accident. In more tangential cases like these, you will definitely need to discuss the details with a lawyer to determine what options are open to you.
Turbulence Injuries on Delta Airlines Flights
Once you have left the airport and are in the air, your safety is much more definitively the responsibility of your chosen airline. Statistically, this is the safest part of any journey that involves air travel, but injuries do happen on airplanes in flight, often without involving anything resembling a crash.
Turbulence plays a role in approximately 65% of all injuries sustained on airliners. This is also one of the only air travel safety issues that has not improved over the decades. While aviation technology has advanced to the point where commercial planes can almost fly and land themselves in emergencies, removing many opportunities for error, pilots are still forced to rely on outdated and inefficient turbulence detection systems.
Most encounters with turbulence are harmless, if nerve-wracking, but when the turbulence is extreme or sudden, it can have serious consequences. Luggage falls out of overhead compartments on top of passengers, hot drinks are spilled, and anyone not wearing a seatbelt can be thrown around the cabin.
Delta in particular had an incident in 2019 in which unexpectedly severe turbulence propelled multiple flight attendants and one unsecured passenger who was using the lavatory into the ceiling. One of the flight attendants suffered a broken arm, and the passenger a head wound.
If you’ve been injured during turbulence on a Delta Airlines flight, there’s a good chance you can sue Delta Airlines, so long as you were following the rules and the directions of the airline staff.
You will have the best chance of collecting a sizeable settlement if Delta Airlines caused your injury through some specific act of negligence. For example, if the staff failed to announce the oncoming turbulence, or did not make sure the luggage was secured properly, that would be grounds to argue negligence.
However, the Montreal Agreement, a bit of international law intended to standardize the duties of airlines to their passengers, imposes a fairly high standard of responsibility for accidents, even in cases where there is no negligence. In other words, even if everyone did everything right and you were injured during turbulence anyway, you may be able to collect limited compensation from Delta Airlines.
Violence on Delta Airlines Flights
Violent or disruptive behavior during air travel is a serious offense, but it’s also becoming more common. In spite of their increasingly strict policies for dealing with unruly passengers, airlines don’t seem to have the support or capabilities necessary to keep their passengers safe from each other.
While conflict over mask regulations is a common recent catalyst for violence on aircraft, the trend goes back farther. In 2017, one first class passenger on a Delta flight had what was later described as a psychotic episode and tried to open one of the cabin doors in flight. The flight attendants’ attempts to stop him turned into a physical fight with wine bottles as weapons, and at least one of the attendants was injured, along with one passenger who came to their aid.
Responsibility for passenger violence is often placed solely on the passenger rather than the airline. In fact, Delta Airlines was later awarded $60,000 in court from the passenger who attempted to open the door. However, when a company is responsible for protecting its clientele from accidents, it is generally also responsible for protecting them from foreseeable violence, and “air rage” incidents have taken on a predictable pattern. There’s no reason airlines shouldn’t be required to develop a reliable way of handling them.
If your injury was caused by passenger violence on a Delta Airlines flight, you will definitely need to discuss your particular situation with a lawyer who handles airline lawsuits.
Delta Airlines Crashes
As uncommon as they are, one of the main concerns airline passengers usually have is the possibility of a crash. When planes do malfunction, or are damaged or mishandled, the results can be catastrophic and affect dozens or hundreds of families all at once.
Delta Airlines has had its share of dangerous in-flight incidents, including engine failures and fires, and its handling of the post-vaccine rise in travel has raised some safety concerns. In January, the company announced that it would gradually be reinstating approximately 400 pilots to meet expected demand. Pilots across airlines have been noting that they feel out of practice, and the Airline Pilots Association reports that Delta Airlines has denied pilots access to practice simulators and even retaliated against them for requesting this potentially life-saving refresher.
In February, a Delta jet skidded off a runway before takeoff and came to a stop at the edge of a ravine. There was snow present that day, and it’s not clear whether the issue was with the pilot’s sharpness, the plane itself, or simply the decision to take off in those weather conditions, but if the plane had continued any farther, everyone on board could have been killed or seriously injured.
Delta Airlines is absolutely responsible for the condition of its planes and the fitness of its pilots, especially if it is willfully ignoring the doubts of those pilots themselves. If you have been injured or lost a loved one to a Delta Airlines accident caused by pilot error and/or mechanical failure, you can sue Delta Airlines. In cases of mechanical failure, you may be able to sue the manufacturer of the airplane as well.
What to Do If You’ve Been Harmed by Delta Airlines
After you’ve suffered an injury or lost a loved one to a Delta Airlines accident or violent incident, it can be difficult to catch your bearings and figure out how to respond. Your immediate priorities should be safety, health, evidence, and representation. To the extent applicable to your situation, try to follow these steps as quickly and thoroughly as possible:
- Call for emergency medical care, if Delta has not already made this call, or schedule a medical examination for your earliest convenience if your injuries do not appear urgent. Getting examined is vital for documenting your injuries, preventing them from worsening, and identifying related health problems that might arise later.
- If possible, document the circumstances surrounding the accident or altercation and identify witnesses. If you tripped at the airport, take pictures of what you tripped on. If you were struck by luggage, take pictures of the compartment it was stowed in. Exchange contact information with fellow travelers who can verify what happened.
- Report the incident to Delta Airlines, but do not discuss fault, answer questions, or speak with claims representatives. Keep a record of all written communication with Delta.
- Hire a lawyer who handles airline lawsuits and has experience relevant to your case. Once you begin working together, redirect all communication with Delta to your lawyer.
The Stoddard Firm is passionate about helping survivors of accidents and violence overcome financial power imbalances and hold large companies like Delta Airlines accountable for mistakes and unethical choices.
In addition to the specific legalities and patterns of negligence surrounding air travel, The Stoddard Firm has expertise in premises liability, personal injury, and wrongful death law. We can identify who was responsible for preventing an injury or death, and how they failed in that duty. We’ll also examine in great detail the way your injury or loss has affected and will continue to affect your life, and fight to make sure you’re fully compensated, beyond just your most immediate and obvious expenses.
To get started discussing your case with an Atlanta lawyer for suing Delta Airlines, just reach out through our online chat function, or give us a call 678-RESULT for a free consultation.