Airlines and COVID Exposure: Who Is Liable?


November 6, 2020

The holidays will be here before you know it. If 2020 was a normal year, this would mean millions of people would be booking flights and hotel rooms so they could celebrate with their loved ones. With the rise of COVID-19 and the continuation of the pandemic, holiday travel plans are starting to look a bit different. That said, there are still a good number of travelers that want or need to fly to their home state for the holidays. That travel comes with increased risk of exposure to the virus and leaves many wondering what their legal rights are, if any, should they be infected on a flight. Here’s what you need to know.

By Traveling, You Accept the Risk

When you decide to board an airline at any time, you accept the inherent risk that something might happen on the flight. The plan could crash, you could be injured, or as is the case this year, you might be exposed to COVID-19. If you’re comfortable with those risks, flying is still an option. Airlines are doing everything they can to reduce the risk of exposure both in the terminal and on the flight.

What Happens if You Get Sick?

No matter what precautions you take to protect yourself on the flight, there’s always a chance that you’ll be exposed to and catch the virus. So, is the airline liable for your exposure? The answer isn’t as simple as you might think. It all comes down to the types of precautions the airline takes to keep their passengers safe.

Most airlines are requiring people boarding to wear masks for the duration of the flight unless they’re eating or drinking. They also take care to screen passengers and do everything they can to keep those showing symptoms from boarding flights in the first place. After each flight, the airline should also disinfect the plane to clean any possible germs left from the last group of passengers. As long as they’re doing everything they can to keep you safe while you fly with them, they likely aren’t liable for your exposure.

However, if you notice the airline not keeping up with the latest protocols or see passengers disregarding the mask rule and notice the flight attendants willfully ignoring those rulebreakers, you may have a case. If you notice any issues on your flight, try to document those problems as thoroughly as possible. Take pictures as appropriate, write down the names of the flight attendants that aren’t following protocol, and keep track of the times that each incident happened on the flight.

When in Doubt, Call a Lawyer

If you get sick and are sure the exposure happened on the flight, you’ll need to speak with a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. Keep in mind that every COVID case resulting from exposure on an airplane may not be something you can fight in court. However, the only way to find out if you have a case against the airline is to speak with an attorney. Contact Mark A. Simon to schedule a video conference today.
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