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How to Sue an Airline Over Damage, Injury

By Betty Wang, JD | Last updated on

After the devastating Asiana Airlines crash last weekend, many are now probably wondering: How do you sue an airline?

Fortunately, most legal claims against airlines do not involve horrific plane crashes or tragic deaths. They're typically over more common, but still stressful and annoying situations like lost luggage, customer service issues, and problems that arise from delayed or missed flights.

So how do you take legal action against an airline? Each passenger's situation is different, but here are some general pointers:

Check FAA Regulations

First, it's important to first know your rights and whether your injury may have involved a violation of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations. It will give you much more fodder if you can find a relevant regulation that applies to your injury.

In legal terms, an airline is considered a common carrier -- an entity that's in the business of transporting passengers or goods for a fee. Common carriers can potentially be held liable for passenger injuries, but only if the passenger can prove negligence.

Consider Small Claims Court

Chances are, your airline-related injury will fall into one of the most common types of airline complaints, such as lost baggage or customer service issues. In many cases, you may be able to resolve your issue with the airline directly.

If not, small claims court is ideal for these types of harms, because it allows you to sue without needing to shell out the additional money to hire a lawyer. Small claims disputes are resolved in front of a judge, and you will represent yourself.

As its name implies, there is a limit to small claims damage awards. It's typically around $5,000, but the amount varies by state.

Consider Hiring an Attorney

If your injury is more serious and may lead to more damages than a small claims court can award, then you may want to consult an experienced aviation attorney. As airline injury claims can get complicated, you'll want a lawyer who has experience in that field to help get your case off the ground.

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