United Airlines Passenger Sues After Suffering Concussion

The United Airlines passenger who was dragged off an airplane this week is suing the airline, according to his attorney. Dr. David Dao, the passenger, has hired prominent Chicago attorney Thomas Demetrio to represent him in his case. The lawsuit will be filed in Cook County Circuit Court in Illinois.

The Transportation Department is investigating the incident to determine whether United followed proper procedure for handling the situation. According to initial reports, the airline selected four passengers to give up their seats. Dao, one of the four selected, refused the $800 offer to get off the plane. When Dao—a 69-year-old physician who said he needed to be at work to treat patients the following day—refused, the airline had him forcibly removed by airport security. Dao suffered a concussion and a broken nose, and he lost two front teeth in the incident. His attorney says he will be undergoing reconstructive surgery for the injuries.

The video of the incident has sparked outrage across social media, and even caused the airline’s stock to drop by $255 million. The incident has also brought attention to the issue of consumer rights for airline passengers. 

What exactly are your rights as a passenger aboard an aircraft? Dao’s attorney says it is against the law to eject a passenger by using unreasonable force or violence. According to the Department of Transportation, roughly 46,000 people were involuntarily denied boarding by airlines in 2015, usually for overbooking situations. However, airlines generally inform passengers about the situation beforehand, as opposed to forcing them off the plane after boarding.

Is it Legal to Eject a Passenger from an Aircraft?

It is legal for an airline to overbook a flight. It is also legal for them to eject a passenger for nearly any reason. However, federal law states that if a passenger is delayed more than two hours due to involuntary removal, the airline should offer to pay 400% of the fare, up to $1,350. Considering this United Airlines passenger would not have been able to fly out until the following morning, the airline likely offered him an amount less than the federal standard. Furthermore, the method they used to remove Dao from the plane was excessive and humiliating.

What Rights do Airline Passengers Have?

Here are 5 things you can do to protect your rights as an airline passenger:

  1. Read the fine print when you purchase your airline ticket. Understand what the airline is legally allowed to do, and read the contract of carriage.
  2. If there is an option to volunteer to be rebooked when you purchase your ticket, do not select that option.
  3. If the airline asks for passengers to volunteer to leave, do not volunteer. You waive your right to compensation if you voluntarily give up your seat. Wait until the airline offers compensation.
  4. Know what the fair compensation is for giving up your seat. According to federal statutes, passengers who are delayed more than an hour are entitled to 200% of the one-way ticket price, up to $675. Passengers delayed longer than two hours should be offered 400% of the fare, up to $1,350.
  5. Prioritize your safety. If the situation begins to feel unsafe, it’s best to get out of the dangerous situation. If you believe you have been treated unfairly, consider filing a complaint or a lawsuit.

“Consumer rights are a vital part of a civilized society. What happened to this passenger is totally unacceptable, and we hope nothing like this ever happens on an aircraft again,” said Attorney Walter Clark, founder of Walter Clark Legal Group.

Our firm has been handling personal injury cases throughout the California Low Desert and High Desert communities for over 30 years. With a 95% success rate, the California personal injury attorneys at Walter Clark Legal Group will fight to hold those responsible for your loss accountable and win compensation to cover medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. If you have been injured and want to discuss your legal options, contact us today for a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer. We have offices in Indio, Rancho Mirage, Victorville, and Yucca Valley and represent clients through the entire California Low Desert and High Desert communities.

DISCLAIMER: The Walter Clark Legal Group blog is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended as legal or medical advice. References to laws are based on general legal practices and vary by location. Information reported comes from secondary news sources. We do handle these types of cases, but whether or not the individuals and/or loved ones involved in these accidents choose to be represented by a law firm is a personal choice we respect. Should you find any of the information incorrect, we welcome you to contact us with corrections.

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