Breaks and Injures

What Compensation Can You Get if the Seat In Front of You Breaks and Injures You While on an Airplane and How Do You Prove Your Case?

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You’re on a flight, settled into your seat, when suddenly the seat in front of you collapses backwards right onto your knees or legs. This would no doubt be painful and could potentially cause serious injury.

In a situation like this, you may wonder – can I get compensation for my injuries? And if so, how much? Here’s a walk of what types of compensation you may be entitled to and the key factors in proving your case.

Types of Compensable Damages

If an airline seat malfunctions due to no fault of your own and causes physical harm, there are a few potential categories of injury-related expenses and losses that you have a right to demand compensation for:

Medical Expenses

One major component of any injury claim is the right to have ALL medical costs covered that were necessary to diagnose and treat your condition after this incident. This includes:

  • Ambulance fees for transportation from the airport to the ER
  • Costs for any imaging tests like X-rays or MRIs to assess bone/tissue damage
  • Fees for the ER visit and consultations with orthopedists
  • Expenses for prescribed medications to manage pain and inflammation
  • Necessary equipment like crutches, compression socks, knee braces
  • All costs for required physical therapy sessions
  • Follow-up visits to track recovery progress

Make sure you keep every single receipt and document related to medical care for your injuries. Also, request copies of all imaging results and clinical notes assessing your condition. This evidence will come in handy later when proving your injuries and losses.

Lost Income

On top of medical costs, having your mobility compromised from leg injuries may prevent you from working – either temporarily or long-term. So compensation for ALL lost pay is essential.

  • If you miss 6 weeks of work recovering, calculate that total lost pay
  • If injuries impair your job performance for 6 months at half capacity, tally that income loss
  • If you cannot return to your previous physically demanding job, tally the lifetime lost earnings

Have pay stubs, tax returns, employment contracts, and other financial records handy to back up claims related to lost income. If you end up needing vocational rehab to change careers post-injury, those education costs can also be included.

Pain and Suffering Damages

This more subjective category of injury compensation involves putting a dollar amount on all the physical discomfort, emotional distress, mental anguish, loss of enjoyment of life and normal activities, etc. resulting from an incident. The specifics of your experience such as:

  • Degree of physical pain in the aftermath
  • The extent of disruption to your lifestyle
  • Length of recovery time
  • Ongoing mobility issues and activity limitations

These factors will all contribute to the value placed on pain and suffering damages. Typically this number is far larger than just economic damages for medical bills and missed work. Emotional trauma has value too.

Punitive Damages

If negligence or misconduct by airline staff directly contributed to the seat failure and subsequent physical harm, you may receive additional “punitive” damages meant to basically punish the airline for negligent behavior. It aims to deter similar misconduct in the future regarding critical safety issues. Punitive awards call attention to the unacceptability of safety shortcuts or lapses in quality control.

So in total, the combination of medical costs, lost income, pain/suffering calculations, and potential punitive damages amounts can really add up.

It’s critical to understand exactly what categories of damages you have the right to demand compensation for in order to tally the full value of your claim and formulate an appropriate settlement demand amount.

Key Factors in Proving Your Case

Of course, the airline may not voluntarily hand over a massive settlement check the minute you file an injury claim. More likely the claims management team will initially downplay your injuries as “minor” and deny any responsibility for the seat failure while making lowball offers. Maybe $5,000 to “put this behind us.”

That’s why having irrefutable evidence to prove both the severity of your damages AND the airline’s negligence is key to getting fair compensation. A few core elements of a strong case include:

Concrete Evidence of Damages

The cornerstone of any injury claim is tangible evidence that the incident did directly cause significant physical harm. The more proof of injury severity you can provide, the better. This includes:

  • Clinical records – X-ray/MRI reports confirming bone fractures or soft tissue tears
  • Graphic photos documenting swelling, bruises, cuts
  • Video footage if possible – show an inability to walk unaided with crutches
  • Doctor statements affirming the severity of mobility limitations

Compile all such evidence clearly indicating the extent of injury and impairment. The more dramatic this looks, the more value your pain and suffering claim carries as well.

Airplane Seat Defect Documentation

A key claim will be that the seat malfunction causing your physical harm directly resulted from airline negligence in maintaining seats. So proving this connection is vital. Try to obtain:

  • Photos of the actual seat bottom broken off, bolts ripped out, etc.
  • Statements from passengers who heard airline staff saying “we knew that seat was getting loose”
  • Records of prior maintenance requests about loose seats that were ignored
  • Evidence of shortcuts or lapses in quality control checks

Any proof that the seat failure reasonably could have been prevented with proper diligence from the airline will boost your negligence claims significantly.

Record of ALL Related Costs

As your claim progresses, keep compiling thorough documentation of every single impact the injury has on your life. Beyond just the medical bills and lost income, track things like:

  • Inability to do normal hobbies like jogging due to knee pain
  • Having to hire household help while recovering movement
  • High taxi fares to doctor appointments without a car
  • Costs of home modifications like a seat lift chair

Quantifying every lifestyle change and expense attributed to the incident builds justification for higher pain and suffering damages. Keep meticulous records and totals.

When It’s Wise to Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer

Pursuing fair compensation for injuries directly with an airline’s bureaucratic claims department is certainly possible on your own. But it often turns into a lengthy, draining process stacked against you. Airlines initially deny about 90% of injury claims filed.

They’ll have teams of experienced adjusters and hostile lawyers relentlessly looking to minimize your damages and their payout. They may quickly offer you a lowball check just hoping you take it as a struggling individual going up against a wealthy global corporation.

That gross imbalance of power and resources is exactly why hiring an experienced attorney is wise. An aviation accident lawyer has successfully battled corporate airlines before and knows all the schemes they use to stonewall and devalue cases. Having a fierce negotiator on your side levels the playing field.

Here are some clear signs it’s smart to retain legal help against the airline:

  • Severe mobility limitations make work impossible
  • Medical bills exceed $100,000
  • The airline denies responsibility for seat failure
  • You’re overwhelmed handling the legal process alone
  • Initial settlement offers seem highly inadequate

Also, be aware that most personal injury lawyers work on a “contingency fee” basis for aviation cases like this. Meaning you pay nothing upfront. The attorney receives an agreed-upon percentage (often 30-40%) of the final settlement amount ONLY if successful in getting you fair compensation. No result, no fee.

So they have a built-in motivation to fight aggressively on your behalf and maximize the damages secured. Just know that fees may be subtracted from your total payout.

Step-By-Step Guide to Seeking Maximum Damages

If the seat in front of you breaks and injures you, you can opt to pursue compensation. Here are the steps you would have to take:

Step 1: Report and Document the Incident

  • Immediately alert airline staff and insist a formal report be filed regarding the seat failure. Get names/contact info of all staff you speak with. Ask to review the report.
  • Take extensive photos of the broken seat parts from various angles plus shots of your visible injuries
  • Get contact info for passengers seated nearby who witnessed the incident unfold
  • Request security camera footage if available

Thoroughly documenting everything about the incident right away preserves invaluable evidence that could get lost over time. Eyewitness statements also tend to be most accurate and detailed closer to the event.

Step 2: Seek Prompt Medical Care

  • Even if injuries seem minor initially, go get checked out urgently
  • Healthcare providers may detect additional hidden issues like blood clots or nerve damage underlying the obvious tissue trauma
  • Closely follow all treatment plans recommended – inconsistent care can wrongly suggest you are exaggerating injury extent

The clinical timeline of your diagnosed conditions, testing, care, and recovery will all carry weight later when making your case. Gaps in treatment raise red flags.

Step 3: Capture Injury Impact

  • Take dated photos throughout recovery showing knee swelling, bruises, surgery scars – anything indicating prolonged impairment
  • Record videos of struggling with crutches on stairs to demonstrate mobility difficulty
  • Keep a written journal logging daily obstacles and lifestyle disruptions due to injury
  • Save receipts for every single cost related to medical care, equipment purchases, transportation, household help, etc.

This real-time evidence of the injury’s effects helps justify higher demanded damages down the line.

Step 4: Send Written Notice to the Airline

  • Look up required claim notice forms on the airline website
  • Fill out all documentation with your detailed account of the seat failure incident
  • List all diagnosed injuries and medical expenses incurred so far
  • Indicate the likelihood of additional costs and lost pay moving forward

Properly completing all claim paperwork gets the review process initiated. Make sure to retain copies as well. Follow protocol precisely to avoid technical delays.

Step 5: Negotiate Persistently

  • Don’t assume the airline’s first (low) settlement offer is final – there is usually extensive back-and-forth
  • Reiterate evidence of airline negligence causing seat failure
  • Send updated medical records continually showing lasting impairment
  • Cite specific federal regulations about seat safety the airline violated
  • Politely threaten litigation if settlement talks stall

Expect this to be a lengthy battle to get maximum damages. But refusing to back down pays off.

Step 6: Get Legal Help If Needed

If at any point you feel totally overwhelmed by medical limitations or legal complexities, hire an experienced personal injury attorney to take over negotiating. Their skills can make a big difference in outcome.

Key Takeaways

If an airline seat defect causes you to get injured, you have legal grounds to pursue injury compensation including medical expenses, lost income, pain and suffering damages, and likely punitive awards.

It may seem like an uphill battle against the airline’s team of corporate lawyers. But by understanding the types of damages covered and focusing diligently on gathering evidence and arguing airline liability, you can maximize your potential claim value well into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, or even millions depending on injury severity and duration.

Don’t settle quickly or low without a fight.


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