Have you had a bad experience travelling and want to know how to sue the airlines?
Air travelers who have been wronged may find that there’s nothing more intimidating than seeking legal action against an airline or how to sue an airline. From the smaller inconveniences of flight delays and lost luggage to the overwhelming tragedies of personal injury and loss of life, a traveler or family must pit themselves against a seemingly faceless conglomerate. By knowing how to initiate the legal process, many consumers have found a resolution when suing an airline.
A traveler may choose to sue an airline in small claims court when they have been wronged in such a manner that additional expense is incurred and the airline refuses reimbursement. Most states limit monetary awards in small claims court to between $3,000 and $7,500. A traveler may not sue in small claims court when an airline loses property or damages goods.
Factors to consider when filing: Prior to pursuing action in small claims court for suing an airline, one must determine the following:
- Is the amount of the claim smaller than the state or local law monetary limit?
- Does the airline do business in the court in which you are filing?
- Does the airline have a contract of carriage which must be followed?
- Has the airline been given the opportunity to follow any of its obligations?
- Can the dispute be settled out of court?
- Is it a hardship for you to appear in court?
How to file a claim: Once you have decided to sue an airline carrier in small claims court, you should contact the clerk’s office for court procedures including filing fees, jurisdictional issues and ceiling on amount of money that can be awarded. It is also important to find out whether or not there is a time limit on filing the particular claim.
When filing out any small claims paperwork, it is critical to be honest and accurate. Remember to find out the legal address and official or corporate name of the airline. Then, make sure the airline has an office or has flights that leave from the area. This will give the courts jurisdiction or legal power over the airline to call them into court. It is important to be aware that the court will not be responsible for actually collecting any money for you. It is entirely your responsibility. Collecting the money owed is the most difficult part of the process so one has to learn to be patient.
With regard to flight delays: Sound legal ground also exists to sue an airline, when a plane “pushes back from the blocks” or leaves the gate on time but sits on the runway for an hour or more because of known flight delays. Airlines, in an attempt to repair their image in the midst of rampant flight delays, often resort to this tactic so they can show an on-time departure. If passengers can prove that this was the case, then they can sue. However, this is “usually a tough one to prove.” With rampant delays, it will be easier for passengers who sit on the runway for extended periods of time to prove that the airline was more concerned with protecting its image.
For mishandled baggage: The main obstacle passengers encounter when seeking legal reparation or suing an airline for mishandled baggage claims is the large number of airline restrictions. The consumer must realize that the airlines have tariffs [or rules] that prohibit compensation for nearly everything when filing a claim. The tariffs differ for each airline but typically include items such as laptop computers, jewelry and electrical appliances. Tariffs are listed in the fine print on the back of each airline ticket and, as a result, many travelers are unaware of these exclusions. Travelers who have baggage claims arising out of international flights face an additional obstacle.
Luggage liability limits differ on international air travel due to the Warsaw Convention. Drafted in 1929, this treaty sets the limit at $9.77 per pound of baggage.
For domestic travel, airlines recently raised the luggage liability limit from $1,250 to $2,500 with their implementations of the Customers First plans. While it is very difficult to recover this amount, there are certain circumstances where tariffs would not apply. For example, e-tickets are an exception because consumers do not receive a paper ticket with the restrictions listed. If the airline loses your luggage without giving you the written restrictions, you could sue on the legal foundation of negligence.
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