Terms of an international insurance treaty have caused families of the 227 passengers on board missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 to file lawsuits rather ahead of schedule – a move that could leave insurers of the airline on the hook for greater liability payments.
Under the Montreal Convention, families of victims are required to file any lawsuits within a two-year period of the triggering incident. The Boeing 777 jet carrying the passengers of MH370 disappeared during a flight between Kuala Lumpur and Beijing during the early hours of March 8, 2014.
“The families are bound by law to file their claims now. They would much rather wait till they know what happened,” Justin Green, a New York aviation attorney and former military pilot, told the Wall Street Journal.
Green is representing more than 20 victims’ families in several countries through his firm Kreindler & Kreindler LLP.
“They don’t have the information others in such incidents normally get to know much faster.”
MH370 sent no distress signal and so far, just one confirmed piece of the plane has been found. No black boxes or bodies of victims have been discovered.
This may make it difficult for families to prove fault on the part of Malaysia Airlines, which is key if families hope to claim more compensation than the $175,000 per passenger guaranteed under terms of the Montreal Convention. As such, Kuala Lumpur aviation attorney Jeremy Joseph feels insurers are safe from further claims.
“I don’t think the discovery of the debris would have any real impact on the position of the insurance claims unless further discovery is made…that would give some indication of what exactly happened,” Joseph told the Wall Street Journal
The airline’s insurers – Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty and Lloyd’s of London unit Atrium – have already paid more than $300 million for claims related to the crash. Both companies have issued statements saying the discovery of part of the wreckage has not changed the situation, nor their willingness to pay valid claims.
The aircraft had been flying under Malaysia Airlines since May 2002 without mechanical or computer troubles. The communications systems aboard the plane were also operating normally until radio and transponder signals stopped during Flight 370.