Do Not Feel Pressured to Sign Anything
January 13, 2021, Jakarta, Indonesia - - The international aviation attorneys from the law firm of Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman wish to extend our deepest condolences to the families who lost loved ones in the crash of Sriwijaya Air Flight 182.
As investigators begin the process of determining how this tragic loss of life occurred, we want to ensure that the legal rights of the victims’ families are preserved and protected as they mourn. Providing critical information now may help families avoid the betrayal and disappointment experienced by some of the Lion Air families.
Under Indonesian law, Sriwijaya Air is strictly liable to pay compensation to victims’ families with no strings attached. The compensation is considered emergency money to tide over the families while their full legal rights are determined. Additional compensation is also available if the airline is found to have been negligent.
Based on our firm’s experience advocating on behalf of air disaster victims, we want to warn the families of SJ 182 crash victims that the airline or its insurers may offer settlements that are drastically lower than the amount a case could get in a courtroom. Worse, the airline or insurers could attempt to pressure the families into signing documents that provide the minimum compensation under the law in exchange for forfeiting their legal rights to pursue justice against those who may be responsible for causing the Sriwijaya Air Flight 182 crash.
These documents, known as release and discharge forms, could victimize grief-stricken families for a second time by providing nothing other than what the airline is required to pay victims’ families under Indonesian law in exchange for the heirs releasing the airline and all other potential defendants from legal liability.
In an air disaster, Indonesian law recognizes a presumption of liability against an air carrier, which is automatically held responsible unless it can prove its innocence. Pursuant to Article 141 of Law Number 1 of 2009 regarding Aviation (“Aviation Law”), an air carrier is liable for the following:
1. Carrier shall be liable for indemnity for death of passengers, permanent defect, or injuries caused by incidents on board the aircraft and/or while getting on or off the aircraft.
2. If the loss as mentioned in item (1) was incurred due to intentional action or fault of the carrier or any of its employees, the carrier shall be liable for damages incurred, and shall not be able to use the provisions under this law to limit its liability.
3. Any next of kin/beneficiary of the victim or the victim suffered due to air transportation incident as meant in item (2) shall submit a lawsuit to court in order to get additional compensation other than the predetermined compensation for losses.
Minister of Transportation, Regulation Number 77 of 2011 regarding Air Carrier Liability (“MoT Reg 77/2011”) further emphasizes that air carriers are liable for the following losses:
- Death of passenger, permanent defect or injury;
- Loss or damage of cabin baggage;
- Loss, destruction or damage of registered baggage;
- Loss, destruction or damage of cargo;
- Delayed air transportation; and
- Loss suffered by third party.
The compensation an air carrier must pay for passenger death is addressed in Article 3 of MoT Reg 77/2011, which states that in the event of a death of a passenger on board an aircraft due to an accident or incident related to air transportation, next of kin/beneficiaries are entitled to Rp 1.250.000.000 (one billion, two-hundred-fifty million Rupiah) per passenger. Further, next of kin/beneficiaries of victims are entitled to a Rp 50.000.000 (fifty million Rupiah) benefit from the Government Insurance Institution, as regulated in Minister of Finance Regulation Number 15/PMK.010/2017, entitled, “The Sum of Benefit and Compulsory Passenger Accident Liability Cover for Public Transportation on Land/River/Lake, Ferries/Crossings, Sea, and Air (MoF Reg 15/PMK.010/2017).
Accordingly, under Indonesian law, a total of Rp 1.300.000.000 (one billion, three- hundred million Rupiah) is the sum an air carrier and the State are required to pay to next of kin/beneficiaries of victims (“Compulsory Compensation”). Next of kin/beneficiaries of victims are absolutely entitled to receive this money. However, in practice, the payment of this Compulsory Compensation often is conditioned by an air carrier upon the signing of a release, so that next of kin/beneficiaries will be asked to relinquish all rights they have against all parties potentially responsible, not just the carrier. In the Lion Air case, many families signed such agreements without knowing that their rights, as set in Article 141, paragraph 3 of Aviation Law, were being taken away from them in return for a mandatory minimum payment.
As noted, however, the Compulsory Compensation is not the only right the families have to claim further damages if investigation shows fault on the part of the parties related to the accident, including the air carrier or aircraft manufacturer. If there is intent/fault/neglect found, Article 1365 or 1366 of the Indonesian Civil Code (“Civil Code”) and Article 23 of MoT Reg 77/2011 provide for additional compensation against the responsible parties.
However, no such claim can be made if the next of kin/beneficiaries of the victims have signed the agreement not to sue the carrier. Therefore, it is important to give out information to families of victims regarding the rights to receive Compulsory Compensation as well as their right to file a claim for further damages if negligence is found.
Our attorneys have seen this tactic from airlines before: in the wake of the devastating 2018 Lion Air Flight 610 crash in Indonesia that killed 189 people, the insurance company for both Lion Air and Boeing sent out release and discharge forms to the families of victims who perished in the fatal crash. Before the families were able to collect compensation owed to them under Indonesian law, the insurer for the airline and Boeing required the families to sign “complicated and shocking” release forms that effectively stripped away their rights to pursue maximum compensation from those responsible for causing the fatal crash.
Following the news of the Lion Air families being bullied into signing release and discharge forms, our law firm put a call out to victims that we would mount cases on their behalf “not only to set aside these unconscionable agreements, but to fully vindicate their rights.” True to our word, our attorneys were able to secure justice and compensation for our Lion Air clients that had been misled into signing this despicable release, and we intend to make sure that the families of the Sriwijaya Air crash have the information they need that was not given to the Lion Air families.
The pain and suffering that go with losing a family member in an airline crash are immeasurable. These families who have lost so much deserve all the compensation to which they are entitled, without any strings attached. It is also their right to pursue legal action against any parties responsible for causing the tragic crash that killed a member of their family.
Next of kin/beneficiaries to victims of aviation disasters in Indonesia are entitled to receive Compulsory Compensation without any condition or limitation. The grieving families of victims need to be educated to prevent air carriers’ attempts to misguide them. Next of kin/beneficiaries are entitled to file for further damages, especially if investigation reveals more evidence of intent/fault/neglect of related parties having caused the accident.
Don’t Be Fooled. Get legal advice before you sign anything.
The law firm of Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman is offering free review of insurance documents or offers pertaining to the Sriwijaya Air Flight 182 crash on behalf of those who lost a family member. In light of recent disclosure of possible malfunction of the crucial auto-throttle aboard SJ 182, those with claims are well advised to seek legal advice as soon as reasonably possible, and should especially beware being asked to sign any documents, or accept any money, until they have received legal advice from reputable lawyers with great, provable, experience handling cases against airlines and airplane manufacturers, including Boeing. We would be honored to speak with any family members about their legal rights should they contact our office in Los Angeles, California.
For local help in Jakarta or for those who may have difficulty with the English language, please contact Imran Muntaz & Co. (+622129333800).