Commercial flights can cause a certain level of stress, given how often airlines overbook flights, and the numbers of delays travelers have to deal with during busy flying seasons. But based on the latest Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) figures, flying also carries some real physical risks, as in-flight injuries in 2016 more than doubled from 2015, a troubling sign for anyone who is thinking about boarding a plane.
And while a majority of these injuries are often caused by turbulence, there is also another growing source of danger: falling overhead luggage.
Recent Examples of Overhead Luggage Injuries
It’s no secret that airlines are doing everything in their power to reduce legroom in order to add more seats and increase their profits.
But as airplanes become filled to capacity, there are also more passengers who need to utilize the overhead storage for their carry-on luggage.
The shrinking legroom and the reduction in seat size has also made it nearly impossible for travelers to slot their carry-on bags under the seat in front of them.
As a result, the battle for overhead storage space has never been fiercer, and when those compartments are stuffed to capacity, any turbulence during a flight can shift the luggage.
After the plane comes to a stop and passengers begin the process of disembarking, there is the real risk of bags falling from the overhead bin and causing serious injury.
That happened to a man who was traveling on a stationary British Airways plane in 2015, when a piece of luggage tumbled out of the overhead locker and struck him on the head.
What made the incident even more startling is that the man who was hit by the luggage was not in the act of opening the overhead compartment.
In fact, one witness said that the “overhead locker burst open and a heavy-duty bag landed on his head. There was a terrible sound on impact and he collapsed. It was a freak accident.”
The man was rushed to the hospital with a serious head injury, but the biggest takeaway is that there was either something faulty with the lock mechanism of the overhead bin, or there were too many bags in the compartment, causing it to open without any sort of manual manipulation by the passenger.
Another recent case occurred in Oregon, when a passenger filed a personal injury lawsuit against Southwest Airlines, accusing the carrier of negligence when he was hit by luggage that fell from an overhead bin after a flight attendant tried to help another passenger store the bag away.
The lawsuit claimed that the airline allowed a bag on board that exceeded the carry-on luggage size limit. The suit also alleged that Southwest Airlines improperly trained the flight attendant on how to stow luggage in the overhead compartment.
Most airlines restrict passengers from bringing any carry-on luggage that weighs more than 40 pounds. But on occasion, some bags that exceed this weight limit are allowed on board, and if one of those bags hits a passenger, it can cause a significant injury.
The FAA requires that all flight attendants receive training to help passengers properly stow luggage in the overhead bins, and to ensure those bags don’t fall in the event of turbulence.
When legal action is taken after overhead luggage injures a passenger, a determination must be made as to whether flight attendants adhered to protocol, and how and why an item in the overhead storage became dislodged and struck the passenger.
Fighting On Your Behalf
Airline injuries can cause a change in your lifestyle and leave you with lasting physical and mental scars. At Hilton & Somer, LLC, our team of Fairfax personal injury lawyers, investigators and support staff is committed to obtaining justice and providing you with peace of mind after an airplane injury. Please contact us today at 703-782-8592 for a free legal consultation!