Many people are injured every year on international flights when their flight encounters turbulence. According to researchers at NASA, turbulence (or rough air) is the leading cause of injuries to passengers and crew in nonfatal airline accidents.
Many passengers were injured just yesterday on an international Northwest Airlines Flight from Manila to Tokyo that was bound for the United States. Passengers who are injured on international flights, depending upon the circumstances, may seek compensation under the Montreal Convention, also known as the Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules for International Carriage by Air.
The Montreal Convention is an international treaty that protects airlines from crippling liability, but also protects the rights of passengers. In order to recover under the treaty, a passenger must show that he or she was injured during an international flight and that the injury constituted an "accident." An injury is an "accident" under Article 17 of the treaty if it is caused by an unusual or unexpected event that is external to the passenger. U.S. Courts have held that turbulence meets the definition of accident.
Turbulence injuries can be serious, they include neck injuries and sometimes, broken ankles. If the Montreal Convention applies passengers must file suit within two years of the incident. Failure to do so may prevent a passenger from recovering after a serious injury.