L’indemnisation possible des victimes de la catastrophe aérienne du vol Germanwings Lufthansa du 24 mars 2015 (Fr)
The air disaster that occurred in the Alpes de Haute Provence on March 24, 2015 on the GERMANWINGS flight # 4U9525 Barcelona-Düsseldorf, killed 150 victims of 18 different nationalities who were on board the Airbus A320 aircraft.
Among these nationalities, there were 70 Germans, 50 Spaniards, 3 British, 1 Belgian, 1 Danish, 1 Dutch, 3 Argentines, 2 Colombians, 2 Mexicans, 2 Venezuelans, 1 Chilean, 2 Americans, 2 Australians, 2 Japanese, 3 Kazakh, 2 Iranians, 1 Israeli, 2 Moroccans.
Analysis of the black box of the cockpit sound recordings reveals that the co-pilot was alone in the cabin, the access door of which he locked before disconnecting the autopilot to descend from the device in the mountains.
Due to the different treatment of compensation depending on the place, the circumstances and the people responsible for the accident, it is important that the public call on lawyers specialized in the defense of victims of air disasters, because their experience is essential to the implementation of a negotiation strategy with those responsible for the accident and their insurers in order to obtain the highest compensation for the families of the victims.
Ultimately, it is the insurance and reinsurance companies that insure the airlines and aircraft manufacturers who are responsible for paying the court awards.
In practice, these insurance companies seek an amicable arrangement with the beneficiaries of the victims in consideration of the risk of conviction to which their customers are exposed. This risk is generally determined by the economic and moral damage suffered by the beneficiaries of the victims as well as by the moral damage suffered by the victims themselves who are likely to have entered their heritage before their death.
The Montreal Convention of May 28, 1999 establishes objective liability without fault, capped at 113,100 SDR or 140,000 Euros. However, when it is established that the accident is due to the fault of the air carrier there is no longer any compensation limit.
In this case, the circumstances of the suicidal and criminal act of the co-pilot are established and constitute a fault of the airline, responsible for its employees.
To this responsibility due to the piloting fault can be added the fault resulting from the lack of precaution concerning the respect of the requirement generally applied by the airline companies of presence at any time of 2 people in the cockpit and that resulting from the locking cabin access door trap.
When the accident occurs on an airline from a poor country, the damages awarded against those responsible for the accident are often limited to a small amount capped at € 140,000 from the Montreal Convention in the absence of fault. Consequently, the insurer tends to take this amount as the upper limit of its friendly offer.
On the other hand, when the accident is likely to be judged by a US court, the risk of conviction can vary between 1 Million and 4 Million US $. This is why insurers will offer much more than € 140,000 on an amicable basis to protect themselves from this risk of high conviction.
This is also true when the airline and the insurer agree on the need to provide fair and prompt compensation to victims, due to the blatant wrongdoing and the urgency to preserve their reputation.
We see the point of knowing the circumstances of the accident well in order to assess the possible responsibilities of the various parties involved and to assess the strategy best suited to the interests of the victims.
Generally it is in the USA that we obtain the strongest compensation. This is explained by the efficiency of the American Common Law system with regard to the establishment of evidence (the discovery system) and the fact that it is jurors who decide responsibilities and their indemnifications and that these are much more generous than professional judges in civil law courts. American case law shows compensation on average 4 times higher than the highest compensation in France.
But it is still necessary to seize a Tribunal that it has jurisdiction according to the rules of international jurisdiction and national jurisdiction. The Montreal Convention of May 28, 1999 provides that the Courts competent to hear disputes relating to air crashes are in principle the following:
- The court of the domicile of the carrier (Germany),
- The court of the principal seat of its exploitation (Germany),
- The court of the place where he has an establishment by whose care the contract was concluded (to be checked in each of the countries in which the passengers bought their tickets)
- The court of the place of destination (Germany)
- The court of a State party where the passenger has his permanent and main residence at the time of the accident (in this case, the 18 countries of residence of the passengers)
In the present case, the jurisdiction rules mainly designate Germany since the airline is German and the travel destination is Germany. The Spanish courts also have jurisdiction over the place where the transport contract was concluded and the country of permanent and principal residence of the numerous Spanish victims. The courts of the 18 countries concerned will also have jurisdiction over victims who have their permanent residences there.
To these heads of jurisdiction is added the jurisdiction of the country of the head office of the manufacturer of the Airbus A320 aircraft in the event of an action based on the aircraft's manufacturing defects, an action which is not necessarily brought before the court designated by the Montreal Convention which applies to air carriers.
The company AIRBUS SAS under French law is part of the European EADS consortium which has several head offices in Europe and includes various subsidiaries in France, Germany, Spain and England as well as 12 European manufacturing sites. Consequently, a civil liability action against Airbus could be brought before various European courts.
The American courts could also be competent on the one hand for the 2 American victims and on the other hand, to know of the possible responsibility of an American supplier of AIRBUS.
However, as the largest number of connecting points in this case brings it back to Germany, the competent American courts could refuse to hear this case in the name of the principle of "forum non conveniens" which allows a court to declare itself incompetent for the benefit of another court in the name of the proper administration of justice.
For the reasons mentioned above, it is necessary to assess the strategy for defending the interests of the families of the victims while retaining the possibility of initiating proceedings in various jurisdictions for as long as possible. The limitation period for liability action against the airline is 2 years.
Because of the multiplicity of nationalities of the victims, of the considerable importance of this catastrophe on the reputation of the airlines GERMANWINGS and Lufthansa, and on the reputation of the company Airbus, as well as the influence exerted by the American jurisprudence in the matter compensation, we are of the opinion that the compensation that could be obtained will be much higher than the amount of € 140,000 provided for by the Montreal Convention; In our opinion, at least around 1,500,000 $.
We bet that the LUFTHANSA group will offer generous compensation in view of the extent of its responsibility for this tragedy quickly revealed by the investigation and analysis of the ship's recordings.