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Wednesday 28 September 2016

Germanwings crash families could seek damages in the US

Kirsti Knolle

Published 19/04/2015 | 16:01

A French rescue worker inspects the remains of the Germanwings Airbus A320 Credit: Gonzalo Fuentes
A French rescue worker inspects the remains of the Germanwings Airbus A320 Credit: Gonzalo Fuentes

Families of the victims of the Germanwings crash are considering filing a claim for damages in the United States if they cannot reach agreement with parent airline Lufthansa in Germany, a lawyer representing the families said.

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Compensation talks with Lufthansa are expected to start soon and lawyer Elmar Giemulla told Reuters he hoped the company would agree to pay damages commensurate with the emotional harm caused by the crash.

"If the airline is not prepared to do so, however, we will look seriously at making a claim in the United States," said Giemulla, adding that he was representing 21 families including those of the German school children who died.

Read More: Co-pilot Lubitz may have spiked captain's coffee before crash - claim

All 150 people on board the airliner were killed in the crash on March 24.

Investigators believe the co-pilot Andreas Lubitz, who had a history of depression, deliberately steered the plane into a mountain in the French Alps after locking the captain out of the cockpit.

Giemulla said his clients could join the families of two US citizens who also lost their lives in the crash in seeking damages through a US court.

Read More: Full horror of Alps crash revealed on phone video: claim

He said he was already working closely with lawyers representing the US families, adding that it would be at the discretion of the judge in the United States whether to allow damage claims by the other families as well.

There are precedents for such cases, Giemulla said.

In air crashes, the amounts awarded for pain and suffering vary by country, with victims from the United States tending to receive higher payouts than in Germany because US courts recognise compensation for emotional harm.

Read More: Probe in to claim woman faked relative in Germanwings crash to get free flight

In Germany, damages are calculated based on a victim's lost earnings and other financial consequences from the loss, such as travel costs, and there is typically no separate award for pain and suffering, according to Giemulla.

This means that revelations by Lufthansa that its flight school knew of Lubitz's depression may not influence the level of payouts in Germany as they could under US law.

Giemulla said he is considering seeking €1 million per victim.

Read More: Germanwings plane evacuated in Germany after bomb threat

So far, Lufthansa has paid 111 families emergency aid of €50,000 each, a company spokesman said on Sunday, adding that the airline aimed to make payments to the remaining families as quickly as possible.

Nearly half of the victims of the Germanwings Barcelona to Duesseldorf flight were German, with the remaining passengers hailing from a range of countries, including Spain, Australia and Argentina.

Reuters

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