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Asiana payments just the beginning: experts

By Chen Jia in San Francisco | China Daily | Updated: 2013-08-14 10:51

US aviation legal experts have warned Chinese survivors of crash-landed Asiana Flight 214 not to sign away any of their rights in accepting the initial $10,000 per person compensation being offered by the airline.

"We have conferred with Asiana's counsel in Los Angeles and can confirm they intend to offer all victims an advance of $10,000," said Brian Alexander, a partner at Kreindler & Kreindler.

Kreindler has been retained by the families of the three Chinese girls who died, as well as some other foreign passengers.

"We are presently reviewing the partial release for our clients to make certain the release does not waive any rights against Asiana or any other third party who may be responsible for the crash," he said.

The firm has also initiated a dialogue with Asiana's attorneys, which it hopes will lead to various other unspecified accommodations for victims of the crash.

Asiana Flight 214 crashed on landing at San Francisco International Airport on July 6 with 307 passengers and crew aboard. Of the 141 Chinese passengers on board, three teenage students from Zhe-jiang province died and many others were injured.

One of the three teenage victims was killed when she was run over by a fire truck responding to the accident and another died from her injuries a few days later in a local hospital.

"Passengers should be aware that the payment is not gratuitous, as Asiana will offset such payments against ultimate recovery, as allowed by Article 28," said Robert Hedrick, an attorney with Aviation Law Group in Seattle.

"The economic needs of passengers significantly injured and of the families of the three deceased passengers greatly exceeds $10,000," he said.

Article 28 of the Montreal Convention allows airlines to make "advance payments" without delay to persons entitled to make claims "in order to meet the immediate economic needs of such persons", he said. "Such advance payments shall not constitute a recognition of liability."

While Asiana's nominal initial payment is a step in the right direction, it is not enough, and fails to take into consideration the immediate economic needs of each individual passenger or their families, he said.

He noted Asiana's comment that they may pay more after the NTSB completes its investigation is not a justification to delay economic needs payments. The NTSB may not complete its investigation for 12 months or more, while these passengers and families have to wait, pay medical bills and expenses, and try to survive on $10,000, Hedrick argued.

As Asiana will be strictly liable for all recoverable damages unless it can prove that it bears no fault for the accident - a very unlikely scenario based on the facts known to date - Asiana is not justified in withholding economic needs payments, which should be calculated fairly for each passenger, he said.

"I applaud Asiana's decision to make advance payments to the passengers on this flight. This is recognition of the fact that all those on board have suffered serious psychological injuries," Chicago-based lawyer Floyd Wisner told China Daily on Tuesday.

"However, I take Asiana at its word that this is an advance payment only and Asiana and its insurers will not insist that the passengers execute a full release in exchange for this payment, as this amount is far from the damages to which the passengers are entitled," he said.

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