Would an airline be responsible for medical bills for an injury suffered during a flight?

My 17 year old daughter suffered a pneumothorax mid-flight from. The airline states that they will not entertain reviewing her claim until a release of medical information waiver is signed. The waiver asks for all medical history to be released. Is this normal to have complete medical history from birth to present disclosed? Also, the waiver states that once her medical information has been released, the airline can re-disclose it, therefore making it exempt from privacy law protection.

Asked on August 31, 2016 under Personal Injury, Washington


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

1) An airline is only responsible for injuries or medical bills IF they were at fault in causing it--such as by letting cabin pressure drop below the level it should be at it, if the pressure loss somehow caused it (there'd have to be medical evidence linking whatever the airline did to the injury). If the airline were not at fault, they are not liable: an airline does not "insure" its passengers against all injuries, but is only responsible for those which it caused by negligence (unreasonably carelessness) or deliberate wrongful action.
2) There has been no court determination that they must pay--that is, you have not sued and won by proving that they were at fault. Therefore, it is purely voluntary on their part whether to review her claim and consider paying or not. Since it is voluntary, they have the right to require any information they like; if you won't provide it, your option would be to sue and try to prove they are at fault. Please note that it is reasonable for them to request this: to the extent that she had a pre-existing injury or condition that caused or contributed to this, then even if the airline might otherwise have been at fault, the existence of a pre-existing condition will reduce, if not eliminate, their liability. Therefore, they have a legitimate interest in understanding her medical history.

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