At 35,000 feet, the last announcement an airline passenger wants to hear is “ladies and gentlemen, is there anyone on board with medical training?”
Unfortunately, all too often, any by some estimates, thousands of passengers per year, become ill during flight. Airline cabins are pressurized but to the equivalent of 7,500 feet above sea level. In that environment, dehydration and complications from any pre-existing illness or condition can occur quickly and cause a rapid decline in a sick passenger’s condition.
When that happens, the quick and proper actions of the flight and cabin crew can mean the difference between its passenger’s life and death. Unfortunately, despite written practices and procedures, airline personnel don’t always respond properly and the outcome can be unfortunate.
As seasoned airline accident lawyers, we have successfully litigated and resolved injury and wrongful death matters on behalf of passengers and their estates arising out of the mismanagement of aviation medical emergencies. It’s easy to think that when a passenger gets sick, the natural reaction is to divert the airplane to the nearest airport so the passenger can receive proper and immediate medical attention. However, landing a commercial jumbo jet filled with fuel and hundreds of passengers on a runway long enough for that airplane to land, and eventually take off again can pose significant challenges. Diversions may also be costly: airlines may have to dump fuel, pay landing and overtime fees, cancellation costs and damages to other passengers inconvenienced by the diversion. Thus, diversions may pit cost and profit on one hand, against the health and welfare of an individual passenger on the other.
To make matters more challenging, courts often give pilots and airlines wide latitude to make decisions that they deem “reasonable” in such situations. As seasoned aviation accident lawyers, we understand that in order to win an in-flight medical emergency case, proper expert witnesses, typically, a pilot, flight attendant, and medical experts should be retained. We routinely retain these and others if necessary, subpoena all telemedicine records and spare no expense to insure that our clients are zealously represented.
We are familiar with the ground-based emergency telemedicine companies that provide in flight guidance to flight and cabin crews. We have experience to obtaining and analyzing their records, electronic documents and discovery produced by airlines and are familiar with the airlines’ practices and procedures and the protocols that they are required to follow in such medical emergency cases.
In June 2016, founder Abe Bohrer was selected to sit on a panel of aviation lawyers at an American Bar Association continuing legal education seminar focused on litigating an inflight medical emergency of a sick passenger.