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Aviation Law Expert Offers Guidance on How Families of Air France Flight 447 May Seek Compensation from Airline

San Mateo attorney Mike Danko provides explanation of Montreal Convention and how it governs airline liability in international flights.

San Mateo, CA (Lexis Nexis) June 12, 2009 -- The families of passengers on Air France Flight 447, which apparently broke apart over the Atlantic Ocean last week, will soon become familiar with an international treaty known as the Montreal Convention, according to Mike Danko, an experienced pilot and attorney who specializes in aviation law disputes.

The Montreal Convention is a treaty adopted in 1999 that amended important provisions of the Warsaw Convention's rules concerning compensation for the victims of air disasters. It protects passengers by introducing a two-tier liability system and by facilitating the swift recovery of proven damages without the need for lengthy litigation.

"Since the Air France flight was international, the Montreal Convention governs all of the claims that may be filed by family members of the passengers," said Danko, who has represented clients in a number of international and domestic aviation disasters. "Under the Convention, as long as a crash was caused by an accident, the airline is automatically liable, up to a point."

According to Danko, within 15 days of determining the identities of the passengers entitled to compensation, Air France must issue checks of $25,000 per passenger to cover the families' immediate economic needs. In addition, the airline is automatically responsible for a first tier of payments to all of the families currently equal to approximately $155,000.

"The second tier of the Montreal Convention deals with any claims from families exceeding the $155,000 limit, but these claims are subject to questions of the airline's negligence or other fault," explained Danko, who is also editor of the popular Aviation Law Monitor blog.

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