Final payment in sight for families of members onboard MH370

PETALING JAYA: Just over a year after the Beijing-bound Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 went off radar, relatives of those on the still missing flight, can finally receive compensation within the next three months.

This was confirmed by aviation attorney Floyd Wisner, whose firm Wisner Law Firm of Chicago with aviation lawyers Stewarts Law of London, have formed an advisory and legal group, to assist families of the passengers tragically lost on Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370.

“We believe we will be able to resolve our clients' claims within 60-90 days,” Wisner told TheSun via email recently.

He estimated that each family could receive final compensation of between US$400,000 (RM1.48 million) to US$500,000 (RM1.85 million).

However, in seeking to obtain a fair compensation for his clients for the loss of their loved ones, Wisner said the amount of such compensation is dependent upon such facts as the age of the decedent, his occupation and earnings, his dependents and their ages.

“The amount of each family’s damages will differ, dependent upon these facts. The amount of US$400,000 to US$500,000 is merely an estimate of possible compensation, based upon our substantial experience in representing other families in aviation losses in the Asia-Pacific region,” he said.

He noted that MAS is the party responsible for payment of compensation under the Montreal Convention since the air carrier is insured for its liability.

“MAS’ insurers therefore will pay the compensation for which their insured MAS is obligated,” he said.

Wisner further explained the Montreal Convention does not determine the amount of compensation but provides for a first level of compensation.

He said the amount of compensation generally is determined by the law of the passenger’s domicile.

“The Montreal Convention does not limit the damages the air carrier may be obligated to pay,” he said.

Under the Montreal Convention, the air carrier must pay up to 100,000 Special Drawing Rights (an international monetary unit currently equaling approximately US$150,000) to any passenger whose damages reach or exceed that amount without proof of the air carrier’s liability.

“Generally, a family which loses a family member in an air crash will suffer damages of at least US$150,000, but this still must be proven.

Thereafter, he said, the air carrier will be obligated to pay damages in addition to the US$150,000, under the law of the passenger’s domicile and without any limit imposed by the Montreal Convention, unless the air carrier can prove it took all necessary measures to avoid the loss or the loss is attributable solely to the acts of another party.

On Jan 29, 2015, the Malaysian government officially declared the disappearance of MH370 an accident and 239 passengers and crew on board dead. This cleared the way for families to seek compensation, as the plane remains missing.

Wisner said the MH370 case has taken longer than usual to resolve because of the unique circumstances surrounding the disappearance of the aircraft.

“However, the insurers of MAS have expressed a willingness to discuss a resolution of these claims and we expect such resolution to now move forward expeditiously,” he added.