Airplane Injury Due to Turbulence

Thankfully, airline safety has improved dramatically since the 80’s, but there are still a significant number of high turbulence injuries in the industry. We have a number of customers who have called over the years asking about head and neck injuries from severe flight turbulence and asking, “do I have a case?”

The short answer is, sometimes. If the flight is international, like the Delta flight from Milan into Atlanta in 2023, then yes. All international flights are covered by a special law or agreement called the Warsaw Convention, which means that for injuries and damages up to $135,000, you do not need to prove that the airline was negligent.  Why does that matter?

The situation for domestic flights is very different. For a domestic flight, you must show that the airline violated their duty to exercise extraordinary care as a common carrier, but it is not automatic, as it is with international flights. Sometimes turbulence just cannot be expected and comes out of nowhere. There is literally nothing the pilots can do. The next analysis would be, well should the fasten seatbelt sign have been on and seating enforced when the plane is on final approach? If the turbulence had already been reported by other aircraft in the same glide path on approach earlier in the day, should the pilots have warned the passengers?

These types of analysis become the major bones of contention in a domestic case, but they are irrelevant on an international flight given the strict liability of the Warsaw Convention.

We are glad to answer any questions you might have about airplane injury claims and responsibility. Below, please find an example of a demand letter that one can use for international flights.


Demand Letter to Airline for Personal Injury

Christopher Simon Attorney at Law
3535 Piedmont Road
Building 14, Suite 410
Atlanta, GA  30305

TEL (678) 608-2788
FAX (404) 841-8534

Yolanda Doe. Claim Analyst
American Airlines
Corporate Insurance/Risk Management
P.O. Box 619616 MD 5558
DFW Airport, TX 75261-9696

RE:​Our Client:​ Jane Doe


Dear Ms. Fernandez:

We represent Jane Doe for her claims against American Airlines (“AA”) rising from an incident in which she was injured while on an AA airplane on January 23, 2010. This letter is being sent to you pursuant to O.C.G.A. §51-12-14 and is in the nature of a demand for purposes of settlement and compromise only. It shall not be admissible for any purpose in the event that we are unable to resolve the case. We have enclosed a copy of the incident report (Reporte De Usuario) for your review.  As is readily apparent from the description of the incident (and the strict liability provisions of the International Intercarrier Agreement), American Airlines was clearly at fault and we are viewing this as a case of one hundred percent (100%) liability on the part of your airline.


​Jane Doe is a 31-year-old permanent United States resident living in Atlanta, Georgia. She suffered a concussion, post-concussive syndrome, neck and back injuries in this incident, and has incurred in excess of $23,000.00 in special damages.  Her treatment for the injuries sustained on the American Airlines aircraft is continuing at the present time.


​On January 23, 2010, Ms. Doe boarded an AA aircraft in Mexico City, Mexico for a direct flight to Miami, Florida, scheduled to depart at 11:05 a.m.  Ms. Doe boarded with other passengers about 10:30 a.m., found her seat (A7), and began reading a book while waiting for the other passengers to board.  As she was seated and reading in her assigned seat, a piece of the aircraft ceiling above her head suddenly crashed down upon her, causing serious injuries.  After being attended to by the flight Captain and other crew members, she was helped off of the aircraft and eventually sent by ambulance to a local hospital for treatment.  AA employees had to relocate other passengers from that area of the aircraft while they attempted to effect repairs.  Mrs. Doe was eventually informed by an AA agent that an aircraft part designed to hold the ceiling in place has failed because it was old.


American Airlines had a duty to maintain its aircraft in safe and working condition, and clearly failed to do so.  Mrs. Doe is an extremely experienced international traveler who did nothing at all to cause or contribute to the failure of the aircraft’s ceiling structure.  As you are aware, Article 17 of the Warsaw Convention created a presumption that aircraft carriers are liable for passenger injuries occurring on board an aircraft.  This was later modified by the Montreal Agreement in 1966 to provide virtual strict liability for injuries of these types in exchange for a cap on the damages that may be recovered for such injuries.  That cap was raised to approximately $135,000.00 when the International Intercarrier Agreement, sponsored by the IATA and the United States Department of Transportation, was adopted by the airlines in 1997.  Under this agreement, passengers injured while on board an aircraft may recover for all compensatory damages (up to $135,000.00) under a “no questions asked” entitlement in United States Courts.  Accordingly, we view this as a case of 100% liability against American Airlines.


Following the collapse of the aircraft ceiling onto her head, Mrs. Doe was placed in a cervical collar, helped off of the plain and eventually transported to a local hospital in Mexico City for treatment.  She was experiencing severe pain in her head and neck at this time.  After treating at the hospital in Mexico City, and with her family doctor from Los Angeles Hospital del Pedregal, she eventually returned to the United States for follow up medical care.

On February 4, 2010, Mrs. Doe was seen by Dr. Robert D. Herrera at Internal Medicine Associates of Atlanta.  She had pain and stiffness at that time and was referred to a neurologist for additional specialized care.  On February 22, 2010, she was examined by Dr. Smith with Atlanta Family Neurology and noted to have restricted neck motion and closed head trauma.  Dr. Smith ordered an MRI of her thoracic and lumbar spine which she underwent at Northside Hospital Department of Radiology on February 26, 2010.​

On March 12, 2010, Ms. Doe presented for care with Dr. Leslie A. Smith at Chastain Resurgens Orthopaedics in Kennesaw, Georgia.  Dr. Smith noted Mrs. Doe’s history of having been struck on her head while on an aircraft and having suffered neck and back pain since that time.  Dr. Cone-Sullivan noted that Mrs. Doe had undergone conservative care consisting of various testing modalities and muscle relaxant medication.  She prescribed Medrol Dospak after completion of Votaren; Lidoderm patches, and Skelaxin.  Mrs. Doe was also prescribed a course of physical therapy which she completed through Resurgens.

Unfortunately, Mrs. Doe found no relief after completing her course of Physical therapy, and sought additional care with Dominion Orthopaedic Clinic and with Peachtree Spine Physicians.  As physical therapy had failed to control her pain, Ms. Doe was given a cervical traction unit, as well as a series of three cervical epidural steroid and cervical facet injections at C4-5.   Fortunately, the injections and traction unit helped to alleviate her pain, and she concluded her medical care on December 7, 2010.


Based on the serious and lasting nature of the injuries to Mrs. Doe and on the clear liability of your company, my client hereby offers to settle all claims against American Airlines for $112,000.00. This offer is open for a period of twenty (20) days from the date of at the top of this letter.

We have enclosed all medical records and bills in our possession that document Mrs. Doe’s claim.  Please let us know if we may provide you with any additional information at this time.  Otherwise, we will await your reply.




  • Los Angeles Hospital del Pedregal​ ​​​$  Unknown
  • Internal Medicine Assoc. of Atlanta​​​​$314.00
  • Northside Hospital Dept. of Radiology​​​$7,583.00
  • Atlanta Family Neurology​​​​​$385.00
  • Resurgens​​​​​​​$1,990.00
  • Sovereign Rehab​​​​​​$352.00
  • Dominion Orthopedics​​​​​$2,298.00
  • Peachtree Spine Physicians​​​​​$9,399.00
  • EMPI (cervical traction unit)​​​​$700.00

TOTAL​​​​​​​ $23,021.00


  • Los Angeles Hospital del Pedregal​ ​​​
  • Internal Medicine Assoc. of Atlanta​​​​
  • Northside Hospital Dept. of Radiology​​​
  • Atlanta Family Neurology​​​​​
  • Resurgens​​​​​​​