The Risks of Airplane Injury From Falling Overhead Luggage

Scott Blumenshine

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A woman on an American Airlines flight from Chicago to Miami had trouble placing her carry-on bag into the overhead compartment, so a flight attendant did it for her. When the plane landed, and the passenger tried to retrieve her luggage, it was wedged so tightly in the overhead bin that she had to pull so hard that it “flew out of the compartment” and forcefully hit her and knocked her off balance. The force knocked her into the armrest of the seat behind her.

Paramedics transported the passenger to an emergency room for treatment. She later had to undergo surgery and suffered for months as a result of the injury. She filed suit against the airline. According to her lawsuit, the Chicago to Miami leg of her journey, which began in Jordan, was the last leg of her journey. Since her trip included international travel, her lawsuit was determined according to the Warsaw and Montreal Conventions.

Oregon Man Sues Southwest Airlines for Falling Luggage Injuries

An Oregon man sued Southwest Airlines for damages based on a head injury he received when a flight attendant was negligent in helping another passenger try to stow luggage in an overhead bin. The bag fell onto the Oregon man sitting in an aisle seat.

The injured man claimed the airline was negligent in allowing an oversized bag onto the plane. In addition, he alleged that the flight attendant was not properly trained in how to load the overhead bin, which resulted in the bag falling and hitting him on the head. He claimed he incurred medical expenses and lost wages due to time off work.

Two passengers were injured in the same way: luggage falling from an overhead bin and injuring them when the bag hit them. But, the outcomes may not be the same. Different laws apply to those injured on domestic flights than to those injured on a flight that involved a stop in a foreign country.

The Warsaw and Montreal Conventions and Accidents on Flights

The treaties govern passengers’ claims that they were injured due to an accident on any flight where the passenger’s itinerary included a stop in a foreign country. Under the terms of the treaties, an accident is defined by the U.S. Supreme Court as an “unexpected or unusual event or happening that is external to the passenger [and not to] the passenger’s own internal reaction to the usual, normal, and expected operation of the aircraft.”

If the passenger can prove in court that the “accident” meets this definition, the airlines will be liable for the injuries. Proof of negligence is not required.

Injuries From Falling Luggage on Domestic Flights

When a passenger is injured by falling luggage from the overhead bin on a domestic flight and has no foreign destination on his or her itinerary, the injured person has to prove negligence on the part of the flight attendant or airline.

The airline may have been negligent in allowing oversized bags to crowd into the overhead bin or improperly training attendants to stow the baggage. The attendant may have been negligent in not securely latching the bin.

Commercial airlines are considered common carriers, meaning they must exercise the “highest degree of care and diligence in the safety of their passengers and cargo.” They also must follow their own regulations, and if a passenger is injured due to an employee’s failure to follow those regulations, that may also be grounds for a lawsuit.

In the confined spaces of an airplane cabin, the overhead compartments are essential for storing carry-on luggage. However, these compartments can also injure passengers and crew if luggage is not properly stowed or if items fall out upon opening. Despite regulations and efforts to ensure cabin safety, falling luggage incidents pose risks, leading to various injuries. This section explores the injuries caused by falling or improperly stowed luggage on airplanes, highlighting the importance of awareness and proper luggage handling to minimize these accidents.

Overhead Hazards: Understanding the Spectrum of Injuries from Airborne Luggage

Head and Neck Injuries: The most common injuries from falling luggage involve the head and neck, as these parts are most vulnerable during such incidents. Injuries can range from mild concussions to severe traumatic brain injuries (TBI).

Cuts and Lacerations: Sharp objects or the edges of luggage can cause cuts and lacerations if they fall from overhead bins.

Musculoskeletal Injuries: Falling luggage can lead to sprains, strains, and fractures, especially to the shoulders, arms, and wrists, as passengers instinctively try to catch falling items.

Facial Injuries: Direct impact from falling objects can cause facial injuries ranging from bruises and black eyes to fractures and dental injuries.

Emotional and Psychological Trauma: Beyond physical injuries, being struck by or witnessing falling luggage can lead to anxiety, fear of flying, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in some individuals.

Minimizing Risks of Injuries from Falling Luggage on Airplanes

Ensuring the safety of passengers and crew from the risks associated with falling or improperly stowed luggage requires vigilance from both airline staff and travelers. By following safety guidelines and handling luggage properly, the incidence of these injuries can be significantly reduced, making air travel safer for everyone.

Our Attorneys Can Help

If you were injured by luggage falling from an overhead bin, you would benefit from the services of our transportation injury attorneys and staff at the Blumenshine Law Group. The law that applies depends on your personal itinerary. We are skilled in proving negligence whether you were on a domestic flight or your itinerary included a foreign destination.

Contact us at (312)766-1000 or email i[email protected] as soon as possible after your injury; we will provide you with a free consultation.

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