MH370 Declared an Accident, Opening the Door for Death Certificates and Compensation Claims

The Malaysian government has officially declared the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 an accident, which clears the way for death certificates to be issued for those aboard the plane. It also means that compensation claims for the families of victims can now move forward.

Thursday’s statement by the Malaysian government didn’t shed any new light on the mystery of what happened on March 8, 2014. The Australian government also issued a statement saying that they are “cautiously optimistic” the plane will be found. Four search boats will continue to scour the southern part of the Indian Ocean in hopes of finding debris. According to the New York Times, Australia, China and Malaysia remain committed to the search.

Many have speculated that the plane may have been hijacked or possibly caught fire mid-flight. Without information from the plane’s flight data recorders, these speculations remain unsubstantiated.

What we do know is that less than an hour after the plane departed, it made a mysterious U-turn, and communication with air traffic controllers was lost. The plane was tracked by Malaysian radar as it deviated from its flight pattern and headed west, making a couple of turns before disappearing near Sumatra. Satellites over the Indian Ocean received pings from MH370’s engines for another six hours, and data analysis shows that the plane likely turned south at Sumatra and continued flying until it ran out of fuel.

With the Malaysian government’s admission that the MH370 crash was an accident, families of victims will be able to obtain legal death certificates, which will allow them to pursue claims against Malaysia Airlines and its insurers. According to a 1999 treaty, commonly known as the Montreal Convention, Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 families are entitled to up to about $175,000 without any proof of fault on the part of the airline.  However, airlines typically will pay well in excess of that amount.  If families choose to take their claims to civil court, much more compensation could be awarded. Families have until March of 2016 to file a compensation claim.


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