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Who’s Liable for Injuries from Falling Overhead Compartment Luggage?

Published on Sep 24, 2020 at 7:32 pm in Personal Injury.

Airplane cabin

Despite restrictions put into place by airlines, travelers are regularly hurt and injured by falling overhead compartment luggage. Size limits for carry-on luggage are meant to prohibit passengers from bringing on bags that won’t fit in the overhead bins, but size limits don’t stop the overhead compartments themselves from becoming unlatched during a flight or upon the plane’s landing. Additionally, it’s common for overhead compartments to become unbalanced when multiple heavy bags shift around in the compartment during flight. Both instances may result in injury despite airline restrictions.

Minor injuries are one thing, but who is liable when someone is seriously injured due to falling luggage? What about in cases where the luggage falls on another passenger when someone is stowing their bags? Determining liability can be complex in these situations.

Who Is Liable When Someone Is Injured by Falling Luggage?

In many situations, the airline is liable for injuries caused by falling luggage because the airline’s proper actions could have prevented the incident. Airline attendants need to be trained to double check to ensure all compartments are properly fastened before the plane takes off. They also assist passengers as they place their bags into compartments to prevent injuries from happening or from passengers incorrectly stowing bags.

For example, if a passenger struggles to fit their luggage into an overhead bin, the flight attendant should help or take over so that it’s placed in the compartment properly and doesn’t fall onto the heads of passengers below or get improperly stowed. This was the scenario in February of 2019 when a man’s shoulder and arm were injured by a falling suitcase as another passenger was attempting to lift it into the compartment.

If some compartments are stuffed too full and others aren’t, attendants should additionally ask passengers to move some of the luggage or move it for them. This ensures that the compartments are evenly distributed weight-wise, which makes the units more stable overall.

Even if the attendant checks the compartments and does everything they should, it’s still possible that the airline could be liable for injuries if a bin pops open during flight due to a defect of the plane that the airline should have prevented through diligence or through maintenance or inspections of the latches on a regular basis. When planes are not properly inspected or maintained, bins may have a greater chance of being defective and causing danger.

What Kinds of Injuries Occur?

According to an article by The Wall Street Journal, around 4,500 plane passengers are hit by falling luggage each year, but that number could be even greater because injuries are generally underreported by travelers because they don’t realize their full injuries until they leave the plane. In proportion to the one billion passengers who flew on planes in 2018, the amount hit and injured by falling suitcases seems low, but it must also be remembered that this is a preventable problem.

Most injuries caused by falling luggage from overhead bins occur during the cruise phase of the flight, usually from turbulence, according to a newsletter by the Flight Safety Foundation. The second most common time for injuries to occur is after the plane lands, and following closely behind is before takeoff, when passengers are loading and unloading their belongings from the compartments.

Mild head injuries, spinal compressions, and bruises are the most common injuries caused by the falling suitcases, and while they are usually minor injuries, some occurrences can result in serious traumatic brain injuries or cervical herniations and can easily cause life-long health complications.

Do You Have a Falling Luggage Case?

If a falling suitcase caused a serious injury you feel could have been prevented, you might have a potential legal case. At Krzak Rundio Gorman, Injury Attorneys, we know that filing a personal injury case can be daunting, especially when going up against a major airline, but you can rest assured that our experienced and diligent lawyers will do everything we can to support you. Contact us today.

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