What constitutes "willful misconduct" under the Warsaw Convention?

The Warsaw Convention is an international convention regulating liability in aviation accidents or incidents involving international aircrafts. According to the rules established by the Convention, the liability of the party in question will be limited to certain amounts unless it can be proven that the air travel accident was caused by “willful misconduct” on the part of the responsible party. The definition of “willful misconduct” will vary, sometimes greatly, depending on a few main factors.

What constitutes "willful misconduct"?

The point of the “willful misconduct” exception is to ensure that in a situation where accidents or injuries occur as a result of a deliberate, malicious, or irresponsible action, the liability of that party won't be limited as it ordinarily would be. In other words, those who act with willful misconduct are no longer protected by the regulations of the Warsaw Convention.

The definition of willful misconduct can be very important in the course of an FAA investigation or lawsuit involving an airplane crash. Typically, the issue is decided on a case-by-case basis, and the outcome will depend largely on what the court decides to do. The general factors taken into consideration in such a decision are as follows:

  • Did the party know that the action taken would probably lead to injury, damage, or accident?
  • Did the party take a deliberate action (or deliberately avoid taking an action that should have been taken) in order to purposely cause an issue, which in turn led to the incident?
  • Was the party guilty of “reckless disregard,” meaning they acted in a careless manner and should have known better, and those actions led to the incident?

These are all just examples of what a court must consider in a “willful misconduct” situation. The testimony of those involved as well as physical evidence and other considerations of the case will all contribute to the final verdict.

If you are involved in an aviation accident governed under the Warsaw Convention, you'll want to have a lawyer on your side to help you throughout the entire legal process. Your lawyer can help you understand whether or not your situation falls into the definition of willful misconduct.