Families Of Germanwings Crash Victims Are Being Offered HOW MUCH?!

One of the most shocking aviation accidents in a while was the Germanwings one from this past March, whereby the first officer intentionally crashed the plane into the ground, killing everyone aboard. I can’t even begin to imagine how that must feel for the families and friends of those aboard.

Germanwings

Beyond that I also recognize there’s absolutely nothing you can do to make people “whole” for loss of life. Whether you compensate families of victims $5,000 or $50,000 or $500,000 or $5m, it won’t bring back their loved ones.

That being said, Lufthansa has now made their compensation proposal to victims of families, and it’s shockingly low. While I don’t know what they deserve, I feel like it’s definitely not this. Via The New York Times:

More than three months after a Germanwings airliner crashed into a French mountainside, killing everyone aboard, the airline’s parent company, Lufthansa, made its first proposal to pay for emotional damages on Tuesday, offering the German victims’ families $28,000 each. Lawyers for the relatives immediately dismissed the figure as inadequate.

In a telephone briefing with reporters on Tuesday, officials from Lufthansa and Germanwings outlined the details of the compensation proposal sent to the families of the 72 victims from Germany, where, under current law, relatives of accident victims may claim only limited economic damages and are not entitled to compensation for emotional pain and suffering.

The Germanwings offer includes 25,000 euros, or $28,000, in compensation per victim for pain and suffering in the minutes before the crash, on top of payments of €50,000 per family that were made in the initial weeks after the March 24 crash to cover funeral and other immediate expenses. The airline also said it would pay a further €10,000 in emotional damages to each victim’s immediate family members, limited to parents, children, and spouses or partners that lived together. Siblings, grandparents and grandchildren will not be compensated unless they are able to demonstrate specific hardship.

So families were paid €50,000 initially to cover funerals and other expenses, and now they’re just being offered €25,000? Ouch!

Like I said, not that there’s any amount that would bring back their loved ones, but that’s just low

What do you make of Germanwings’ compensation proposal?

Comments

  1. Just curious, how much do you think is adequate?

    For a family of 4, the total amount received is 105k EUR (50k + 25k + 3 x 10k), which does seem a little low.

  2. That’s roughly $2 million, total. German Wings has almost certainly spent more than that on Public Relations to protect their image in the wake of the crash. That’s pretty insulting.

  3. While I can’t say with any degree of certainty what *is* an adequate number, I’m curious to know just how much funerals cost in Germany. 50,000 EUR “to cover funeral and other immediate expenses” seems exorbitantly high given that’s likely over half the typical annual income for a family. It’s as if the amounts of reversed, and they should be given the 50k now. Perhaps Germanwings is taking all of that into consideration, and hence the seeming pittance being offered now for pain and suffering?

  4. Not sure if there is (officially) negligence on Lufthansa’s part, but given it was one of their employees who deliberately caused this, I would expect something in the low 7 figures at least.

  5. This is a disgusting, shameful offer. I will never fly Lufthansa again due to this pathetic offer. Hope more will do the same. Lufthansa may try to fake that they care about the victims and their families, but Lufthansa’s management have just revealed who they really are – thugs. And that may be to kind.

  6. I think it’s impossible to determine the right amount but $28k is certainly too low. In my opinion anything under $250k / person is a shame. F*ck you Lufthansa! They were human beings.

    I hope that these families will hire a good lawyer and they will squeeze out at least $250k+ per person plus I would force them to publish a statement on their own website, on the front page, saying apologize to these families because they evaluated a human being’s life at @ $28k.

    What a shame, jesus. They can’t deny that they are Germans…

  7. That is shamefully low. If that was an adult who died that is less than 1/2 their annual income, that their family depended upon. I agree with the 1/2 million figure above. This is where companies could take a lesson from the American legal system. Wrongful death suits in the U.S. Court system would wrong out AT LEAST 250K (that is what a friend got when his father was killed by a train – and he was in his 20s at the time. His sister received the same and their mother got more).

  8. Don’t forget that it happened in Europe to an German airline and not the USA. That makes a huge difference.

    Don’t get me wrong. It isn’t much what Lufthansa offers but when you see other cases with deadly outcomes, it fits in the overall picture.

    Please, don’t get me wrong. I indulge every penny to the surviving members of the families.

    If they get more, it would only be because of the public pressure, PR, etc.

    (@ Adam: An average funeral in Germany might cost something between 5.000 to 10.000 €.)

  9. Agree with all that this is shamefully and insultingly low. At least put it in the 6 figures. 100k EUR would still be low, but at least they wouldn’t come off as completely uncaring and miserly. 25k EUR per victim + 10k EUR per immediate family member is a joke, and one that isn’t at all funny.

  10. In many countries, unlike in the US, you do not sue for “pain and suffering”
    From what I understand from what Ben said, the compensation is just for the “pain and suffering” part – which according to article, German laws do not account for.
    I assume that in addition there will be compensation for “real economic damages” – which is always terrible to calculate; this is because somehow a lawyer with 2 young kids is “worth more” than an older retired single person that has no economic dependents and does not make any money.
    Since the flight crashed in France, I wonder how much does French law may or may not influence the process.

  11. Whoa.. I loved Lufthansa and after reading this I will think twice about flying on their metal. The amount is shockingly low. First, the families should be compensated for economic and noneconomic damages similar to wrongful death statutes in the United States (e.g., their average lifetime earnings) and pain and suffering (airplane crashing would be considered in this). The families should get loss of consortium for losing their loved ones. This was an intentional act of a Lufthansa employee acting on behalf of the airline using their equipment. It’s arguable whether the pilot was actually acting outside of his scope of employment (after all flying a plane, if even into a mountain is part of a pilot’s job duties). I’m no tort lawyer but the post makes me angry. It’s just wrong.

  12. I’ve heard that the final figure for compensation , as required by international law signed in Montreal or somewhere, is £112K per person? Is that true?

    But seriously this is just low. Even Adam Air, an Indonesian budget airline that lost a plane in 2007, paid out somewhere close to £200k/person.

  13. Shame, shame, shame on LH. Prior to this news I felt they were a remarkably well-run company. Not anymore. Considering there was negligence on their part, I cannot believe they will try to get away with going cheap with the families left behind. Cheap shot…Probably the lowest LH has sunk to. I say SUE to the highest extent that German and if possible, other courts will allow.

  14. The article references emotional damages and I suspect this is only part of an overall package. Economic damages are different and potentially greater.

  15. Overall for compensation they’re about a couple of zeros short. It seems odd that Lufthansa is splitting the emotional part off this way. First, they look like cheap dirtbags. Second, they look insensitive. It’s impressive that they’ve managed to make a PR catastrophe worse, but somehow they’ve managed.

  16. Everyone likes to complain about the American legal system when it comes to lawsuits, but this is what happens when you don’t have strong plaintiff rights built into your tort system. All of these tort loss amounts are codified in the German legal system, it protects companies but not individuals.

  17. @adam I do not know what ‘family’ you think people have in germany but no one I know would have 50,000 Euro be more than the 1/2 way point for family income…..

  18. I think being compensated for losing someone is extremely shallow. the original parent for the funeral costs and other immediate expenditure is completely reasonable but after that I think it’s quite insulting asking for more money to help you get over your loss. Just shows that you care more about money that your own family which is frankly disgusting

  19. @Sam- obviously, you’ve never lost a family member due to the negligence of someone else (and yes, LH demonstrated negligence by not ensuring this man was fit to fly). What you’re not taking into account is that husbands and wives lost partners who may have been SOLE BREADWINNERS in their family. They not only were dealt the emotional devastation of losing a loved one, but they may have lost the one paycheck their family had to feed and clothe a family of four or more. Or maybe they lost one of two paychecks. Your comment is not only off base, callous and insensitive, but shows your stupidity and lack of thought. Also, you might not be taking into account the children of the single parents on this flight, or the fact that people may be suffering from the emotional trauma of losing them and dealing with severe depression (that causes clinical treatment), anxiety and other emotional disorders that could be triggered from an untimely, violent loss. Just because you’d just get over losing someone important to you in such a horrible, untimely way doesn’t mean these people should demonstrate the same emotional handicaps you have.

  20. The perfect illustration of the difference in litigation culture between the US and Europe. Less grieving and more “now what can I make out of this”.

  21. @Sam, I understand the impulse to have the opinion you’ve expressed. That being said, the fact that your thought process didn’t quickly come to another conclusion is curious (and flawed). In my own opinion, this amount almost feels like Lufthansa isn’t even taking responsibility for this. If I was offered this amount for the loss of my partner or parent, I would be beyond insulted. If I was offered something more reasonable (USD/EUR/GBP X,XXX,XXX) I would expect my reaction to be to let it go, and continue on my with my grieving and trying to set my life back (though it’s never happened *thank god* so I can’t say for sure). Offering me less than $30k makes me want to take the company down. I want for these victims so much money that the company falls into financial struggles. I want whoever made the decision on this amount to suffer, because nothing can ever be done to him/them like what they have done to the families and friends of those passengers. This is such an asshole move.

  22. From what I understand it is EUR 25,000 per victim plus EUR 10,000 to each ‘immediate’ family member such as parents, children, spouses or partners. So the EUR 25,000 in most cases will go up by another let’s say EUR 30,000 or so on average.
    Not that it makes a big difference in the big picture …..

  23. Garrett, if you want Germanwings to fail then you are really wanting all of Lufthansa to fail, complete with job loss and economic disaster that results.

    The pilot was at fault. As horrific as this incident was, it’s virtually impossible to stop a lone crazy from taking out large numbers of people. If Germanwings demonstrated neligence that’s another matter, but as far as I know they did not. No need to punish them. I will say though that I hope the executive bonuses are donated to the victims’ families this year.

  24. Ok, even taking account differences in litigation customs between countries, this is way low. But wouldn’t this first offer just be an opening gambit? Even though Lufthansa must know it’s taking a risk by lowballing like this–the negative PR this will generate won’t be pretty. And a more generous first offer would be less likely to fire up the desire for vengeance that J Ramos and Garrett expressed.

    This isn’t over by a long shot.

  25. They will start low and see who bites and signs the release of liability. Then they have fewer left that will sue them, then they start negotiating with them and so on. Typical business approach to minimize cost.

  26. Call the lawyers and start the litigation. Nothing under 7 figures will even start the discussion. And to establish the mood of the work environment in which “their” employee acted they will need to replay all the details of the dozen? Strikes in the time leading up to the crash. Stupid insulting offer that should free up quite a bit of reward space.

  27. Am I the only one here who thinks this might be reasonable? $75k+ euros seems like it might be reasonable when Lufthansa didn’t kill those people. This was not a maintenance failure or something like that where you might be able to point to Lufthansa as negligent.

    They were killed by the pilot flying the plane into a mountain.

  28. Wait…that pilot was a Eurowings employee. How can Eurowings not be totally responsible. Legally, think as if he is part of the airplane.

  29. Charlie H, I think it’s reasonable.

    Jimjar, was Germanwings negligent in some way? I don’t think there is any evidence that they were.

  30. Jimjar,

    But a pilot is not part of the plane. The pilot is a person who thinks and acts as an individual.

    In addition, at least in the the U.S., criminal acts generally cutoff employer liability.

    There is a halfway decent summary starting on page 471 of this document:

    wwwDOTrepositoryDOTlawDOTindianaDOTedu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1192&context=fclj

    If that does not work search google for: Employer Liability for Employee Online Criminal Acts indiana

    Although the article is about liability for online acts, the summary that starts on page 471 is generally applicable.

  31. @Charlie H – What ignorant nonsense. The pilot had a history of mental illness and the airline knew about it, yet it allowed him to fly. How is that not negligence or a serious contributing factor? I would think that was even worse than some maintenance failure.

  32. I think the fundamental point here is the pilot had a history of mental illness. The airline didnt do enough due-diligence. It’s appalling that people don’t see that it is, in fact, an employer’s responsibility to make sure their employees are in fit condition ESPECIALLY when flying a plane. Gross negligence. I’d say this warrants 500k euros at a minimum.

  33. Seems a lot of people have an opinion that the amount offered by LH is low, some even come up with their own amount of what is a “fair” compensation amount, no-one however, gives an explanation HOW they come to that “fair” amount… It feels a bit random this way.

  34. @BHill

    That was 6 years ago and he passed his medical with the German aviation authorities who permitted him to fly commercially.

    Are we now going to ban anyone with a history of mental health problems and depression from flying for the rest of their life? I don’t think that’s a solution. A significant portion of the population has some sort of issue during their lifetime.

    How else should be apply this logic? Have a mental health problem… no driving a car, because that’s a danger to the public.

    You ask “How is that not negligence or a serious contributing factor.” It’s the plaintiff’s responsibility to show that it was negligence and a contributing factor. Or, in this debate, it’s your obligation to support your assertions with facts and legal argument. Your mere assertions and feelings don’t prove anything or support your conclusion.

  35. Charlie H – As I said, what ignorant nonsense(squared). The pilot had been getting no fly notices from his doctors, as recently as a couple of days before his flight, which he tore up. And the pilot had a history of seeing many different doctors. LH has a duty to check up on their pilots with mental health issues and make sure they are fit to fly. They didn’t. You are just trying to rationalize your own argument here – and not doing a very good job of it in my opinion; comparing a driving license to a commercial pilot license! Yeah, right!

  36. German (and French and Spanish) tort law is not as different as some here seem to think. What’s not recoverable are the sort of “pain and suffering” judgements that are commonly behind the astronomical awards seen in the US.

    There is plenty of room in the German legal system to support verifiable lost earnings claims, specifically the section on wrongful death, which explicitly accounts for annuities being provided to replace lost support.

  37. Even if the co-pilot had not been mentally ill and or if they had not been diagnosed, at the end of the day, he was acting on behalf of LH and, acting on behalf of LH, he murdered all of the passengers on the flight. Hence, their deaths fall unequivocally on LH’s doorstep.

  38. Keep calling me ignorant all you want, but I am starting to think you don’t know what that word means.

    If the pilot was tearing up a no fly notice, then the pilot was actively hiding his condition from the company. Do the privacy laws in Germany and Europe even allow the company access to mental health records? What law imposes a duty on LH to check up on pilots with mental issues? Cite something, please, if so, then they might be liable. The way things work in the US is that a pilot gets a medical certificate from a doctor authorized by the FAA to issue such medical certificates. The doctor reports this status directly to the FAA. The airline then checks to see of a pilots medical status valid or the FAA notifies the airline of a revoked medical (I don’t recall which way it works) If his medical cert. is valid, then he can fly. If a flight doctor revokes the medical cert, then they have to notify the FAA. If a doctor issues a “no fly notice” but didn’t notify the authorities, then the doctor might be liable.

    … I did some more seraching to support my position, and it looks like, even in Germany, pilot medical records are private. See below:

    “Medical record emerging

    Much attention has focused on Lubitz’s state of mind, with suggestions that he may have had mental health issues.

    Lubitz, 27, passed his annual pilot recertification medical examination in summer 2014, a German aviation source told CNN. He had started working as a commercial pilot in 2013, said Lufthansa, the parent company of Germanwings.

    An official with Lufthansa said that the exam only tests physical health, not psychological health.

    It’s unknown if Lubitz mentioned his problems on a form that asks yes-or-no questions about physical and mental illness, suicide attempts and medications. European pilots must fill out the form to be recertified.

    ***Federal aviation authorities, not the airline, issue the form. The form is privileged information, and Lufthansa never sees a pilot’s completed form, an airline representative said.***

    The airline would only get a “clear to fly” notice from the aviation doctors alerting the airline that a pilot has completed recertification.”

    So I ask again, how is LH suppose to follow up on this and where in the law does LH have a duty to do further investigations?

    @mallthus He was not acting on behalf of LH when he set the autopilot to crash, maybe in the broader general meaning of those words, he was, but not under the legal meaning of those words in the US. At least under US Law these purposeful acts of the pilot were likely well outside the scope of his employment.

  39. @Charlie H – You just discounted your argument completely with this sentence “He was not acting on behalf of LH when he set the autopilot to crash”. Sorry, but I think your argument is both ridiculous, and, yes….clearly ignorant. The law on this is clear, which you should be aware of since you seem to be so knowledgeable about the law.

    The Montreal Convention states that an airline is liable for the “wrongful act” of an employee. Furthermore, in virtually all jurisdictions employers are liable for their employee’s wrongful acts under a legal doctrine known as “respondeat superior” liability. The employer escapes liability if the incriminating actions of an employee is not done while on duty. For example if the pilot murdered someone while shopping in a seven/eleven store, LH would not be liable as he is not on duty.

    LH is definitely liable under the law, but at issue is if they were negligent or not – which, if they were, could result in them having to pay significantly more damages. I will leave that to the courts to decide.

  40. I now what respondeat superior is, I cited to it in my earlier post. Here is a summary:

    “The Restatement (Second) of Agency, section 228, establishes the test adopted by most jurisdictions to determine what conduct falls within the scope of employment:
    (1) Conduct of a servant is within the scope of employment if, but only if:
    (a) it is of the kind he is employed to perform;
    (b) it occurs substantially within the authorized time and space limits;
    (c) it is actuated, at least in part, by a purpose to serve the master, and
    (d) if force is intentionally used by the servant against another, the use of force is not unexpectable by the master.
    (2) Conduct of a servant is not within the scope of employment if it is different in kind from that authorized, far beyond the authorized time or space limits, or too little actuated by a purpose to serve the master.

    Courts have held that acts that are so personally driven or outrageous are clearly outside the scope of employment. For example, in Heindel v. Bowery Savings Bank, Robert Turner, a security guard at a New York shopping mall, forced a fifteen-year-old girl to accompany him to the mall’s security office where he assaulted, raped, and sodomized her. The victim’s father filed suit against Turner’s employer, arguing that the security company was “vicariously liable” for his acts. While the court acknowledged that an employer can be held liable for torts committed by the employee during the course of employment, the employer cannot be held liable when the personal motives of the employee are unrelated to the employer’s business. Finding that Turner’s acts were committed for personal motives and were a complete departure from the normal duties of a security guard, the court held, as a matter of law, that his conduct did not further the employer’s interest. The court granted summary judgment for the employer.”

    Thus, not being on duty is only one factor in determining employer liability. Under U.S. law LH would not necessarily be liable for the criminal acts of its employees, even if they commit those acts while on duty.

    Regarding the Montreal Convention, do you know if “wrongful acts” include criminal acts? I don’t see a definition of “wrongful acts” in the agreement. In addition, the convention references agents and servants, and as discussed above, an on duty employee is not always a servant or agent.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *