Most aviation accidents involving international flights are subject to the rules of the Warsaw or Montreal conventions, which govern liability and the amount of compensation that the airline should pay to the victims.

The Warsaw and Montreal Conventions apply only to the airline. Other parties that may be responsible, such as the aircraft manufacturer, are subject to different legal rules.

The Warsaw Convention

The Warsaw system limits the compensation that can be recovered from an airline. The latest version of this convention limits the compensation available at around $25,000.

The Montreal Convention

The Montreal Convention – which 97 countries have signed up to – is an improvement on the Warsaw system and states that there are no limits on how much compensation can be paid. This convention does not allow airlines to dispute the first $150,000 (approximately) of any claim providing the passenger was not to blame for their injuries.  This is known as “strict liability”.

Where the injured party or the family of the deceased suffer losses greater than the strict liability limit, the airline is only able to avoid paying for the entire compensation if they can prove the accident was not caused by their negligence or was caused by a third party. However, proving this can be very difficult for the airline so larger compensation awards are common.

Which convention applies?

This depends on the departure and destination countries and which conventions they are both signatories to:

  • If the countries of departure and destination have both signed up to the Montreal Convention, then that convention applies.
  • If neither country is signed up to the Montreal Convention, but both have signed up to the Warsaw Convention, then the Warsaw Convention applies.
  • If one country has signed up to both conventions, but the other has only signed up to the Warsaw Convention, then the Warsaw Convention applies.

If your journey is a round trip involving a number of flights, the convention that applies depends on the country of departure and your final destination. For example:

A passenger flying a non-return single journey from Country A (Warsaw Convention) to Country B (Montreal and Warsaw Conventions) = Warsaw Convention applies.

A passenger flying a return journey from Country B (Montreal and Warsaw) to Country A (Warsaw) then back to Country B = Montreal Convention applies because country B is the departure and destination country.

A passenger flying successive flights from Country B (Montreal and Warsaw) to Country A (Warsaw) to Country C (Warsaw) to Country D (Montreal and Warsaw) = Montreal Convention applies because the departure and destination countries had both signed up.

While this can seem complicated, don’t worry, we have the experience needed to talk it through with you and make sure which convention applies.

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