The affected families stand a chance of being compensated according to international standards, which will be quite a sizeable amount after being converted to Indian rupees.

Families of more than 10 Mangalore air crash victims have hired three leading American law firms as attorneys to take up their cases. This can open many possibilities as the law firms are now investigating if there can be a case of “multiple culpability”, wherein they may sue Boeing, the insurance companies, airplane leasing banks, or any related companies for any violations.

Masry & Vititoe, Giradi & Keese, Engstrom, Lipscomb and Lack are the three law firms that are investigating the possibilities in the case. They have appointed George Hatcher, a specialised air crash consultant to look into the case. M. Dhruva & Partners, a Mumbai-based team of Advocates and Solicitors will assist these law firms in processing the claims of the relatives of some victims.

It is not yet decided if a lawsuit will be filed in the American court or the lawyers will only negotiate to increase the compensation bounty. The affected families stand a chance of being compensated according to international standards, which will be quite a sizeable amount after being converted to Indian rupees. Other families too can approach these firms.

On May 22, 2010, Dubai-Mangalore Air India Express IX-812 had overshot the runway killing 158 on board.

“When you buy a seat in the plane, you have the right to maximum insurance,” Mr. Hatcher said. Usually, the insurance companies hire consortium of lawyers to reduce the cost of claims. “There should be legal representation for the victims' families as well,” he said.

The 10-odd families need not shell out any money now. In the USA, lawyers work on percentages and the families will have to pay them a part of the claim that they will win in case the lawsuit is filed.

Mr. Hatcher and a team from M. Dhruva & Partners recently visited the families of the victims in Mangalore. They also investigated at the crash site at Bajpe, Mangalore.

Mr. Hatcher complained about the disregard wreckage clearance in India. “I was appalled to see the contaminated wreckage at Bajpe. In many other countries, the wreckage would have been preserved properly for a very long time,” he said.

Possibilities

The Air India Express flight 812 was a Boeing 737-800 airplane. This is a newer plane and the Mangalore crash is the third incidence in the recent years involving this type of plane. The law firms will investigate if there is any design problem with this model. Boeing being an American company, it can be dragged to court there.

Mr. Hatcher said some aviation experts said that there may be more than just the pilot's fault.

Also, the banks which lease planes to aviation companies like Air India can be booked for “negligent entrustment” if the companies lack in adhering to international standards.

If reconstruction of the disaster and expert opinion hints at fault in cables or any other parts of the plane, even those companies can be taken to court.

“Our investigations are on and as of now, there is no intention of suing anybody,” Mr. Hatcher said.

Unequal Compensation

Mr. Hatcher also said that the compensation depends upon the profile of the victim. “This is where a lawyer can help the affected families in filling insurance forms. If a student unfortunately dies in an air crash, the family may just leave the ‘occupation' column blank after marking the victim as a student. But if the student also did some part-time job, the compensation would increase. Someone needs to guide the families about this,” he said.

Compensation will differ according to age, occupation, number of dependents, etc.

There is also a provision for pain and suffering requirement.

The Mangalore air crash is one of the worst aviation disasters in India. Though there have been wide reports of pilot error in the case, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has not yet submitted an official report.

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