MH17 victim compensation likely to be inadequate

25th Jul 2014

Compensation from Malaysia Airlines which may be available to families of the victims of Flight MH17 is likely to be inadequate, the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA) said today.

Australian Lawyers Alliance aviation spokesperson Joseph Wheeler said the Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules for International Carriage (Montreal Convention), which imposes strict liability on air carriers for the accidental death of passengers, is insufficient to provide families the compensation they deserve in this instance.

“The Convention is an international treaty which uses the compensation assessment law in the jurisdiction where claims are filed,” Mr Wheeler said.

“So, in Australia, for example, the claims made on behalf of those children and elderly who were lost could be obscenely low if the only option is to sue the airline for a dependency claim – a claim which is largely calculated based on the deceased’s earning capacity.  That is fraught with difficulty, particularly for young children,” Mr Wheeler said.

“Also, crucially, the Montreal Convention denies families punitive or exemplary damages, which the ALA believes would be called for in the interests of justice,” Mr Wheeler said.

Mr Wheeler said the Montreal Convention is a two-tiered system in which proven financial losses of dependent family members are recoverable from the airline up to approximately $190,000 (AUD) without families proving that the airline caused the death of their loved one. 

“However, if it is established that the airline was negligent or had some responsibility for a passenger death, then the full amount of proven damages would be available,” Mr Wheeler said.

“However that amount would still be calculated by reference to the law which, for the young and the elderly, would leave the families of these defenceless victims with very little,” Mr Wheeler said.

“This is a complex area and the Federal Government must assist families of the victims so they can receive appropriate compensation,” Mr Wheeler said.

“Whether the Government establishes a victims’ fund, or continues to apply political pressure to bring the perpetrators to justice, it is clear that the burden of compensation should not be on Malaysia Airlines alone.”  

Tags: Compensation Transport accidents terrorism