Major Plane Crash in Switzerland: Rights of the victims

11. Februar 2018

In the mountains of the Canton of Graubünden, a Ju-52, a famous historic aircraft in Switzerland, crashed during a sightseeing flight on August 4, 2018. There were 20 people on board (17 guests and 3 crewmembers). All of whom died in the crash.

The crash still raises countless questions. It remains unclear whether human failure or a technical error led to the accident. Third-party influences (e.g. contact with other flying objects or a mast) or a terrorist attack are not being considered as possible causes. However, the intense heat on the day could have been a contributing factor.

When plane crashes are concerned, special liability provisions apply. For international flights, the Montreal Convention is applicable. The Montreal Convention governs, inter alia, the liability of the airline and the scope of compensation. In the event of the death or personal injury of passengers, liability cannot be excluded up to the amount of 100’000 Special Drawing Rights (currently approx. EUR 120’000.- or CHF 140’000.-). The airline is also liable for any further damages, unless they can provide evidence that the damage was not caused by an unlawful act or omission on the part of the airline or its employees or that third parties are responsible.

For domestic flights, in Switzerland the Regulation on Air Transport applies. The regulation is based on the Montreal Convention and provides the same concept concerning liability and the Special Drawing Rights.

It is very important to note that both under the Montreal Convention and the Regulation on Air Transport all claims forfeit two years after the accident. Therefore, court proceedings must be initiated within that period if an amicable settlement cannot be reached.