Learn about your rights to workers’ comp benefits after an injury caused by air rage in Georgia
“Air rage” is a term referring to airplane passengers who exhibit disruptive and aggressive behaviors during a flight. Typical behaviors include acting irrationally and exhibiting extreme anger, which often leads to verbal and physical assaults.
Due to the recent rise in air rage incidents, it’s crucial for airlines to implement conflict management strategies and enhance crew training to mitigate the risk of injury to airline workers and passengers. In the meantime, if you work in the airline industry and are injured in an air rage incident, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.
How common is air rage?
Air rage incidents became extremely common during the COVID-19 pandemic, with mask-wearing requirements contributing to large numbers of unruly passengers. According to a CNBC report, in 2021, airlines dealt with over 5,700 cases of air rage, compared to a typical range of 100 to 150 incidents annually. The increased number of incidents has created challenges and safety concerns for employees, passengers and the airlines.
In an attempt to address the seriousness of air rage behaviors and ensure that passengers and crew remain safe during air travel, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has recently adopted a zero-tolerance policy for unruly airline passengers. Passengers who exhibit disruptive or violent behavior related to air rage not only face substantial fines but also criminal prosecution and imprisonment.
What typically causes air rage?
Passengers with air rage can be triggered by many factors, including alcohol and substance abuse, personal or emotional stress, flight delays or cancellations, seat disputes, miscommunication or language barriers, and underlying mental health conditions.
In-flight smoking restrictions, particularly for heavy smokers, can also lead to frustration. Additionally, strict rules and regulations imposed on passengers during air travel can contribute to feelings of anger and rebellion.
Air rage incidents in the news
Alleged racially-charged air rage incident
A Bronx, New York, woman was sentenced to 4 months in prison after assaulting a fellow passenger and intimidating a flight attendant on an American Airlines flight. Kelly Pichardo, 32, pleaded guilty to interfering with a flight crew and will serve 3 years of supervised release. She is also responsible for paying $9,123 in restitution to American Airlines.
Pichardo and her co-defendant, Leeza Rodriguez, shouted racial slurs at a passenger, physically tried to stop him from recording them, and spat on him. Pichardo also intimidated a flight attendant who tried to intervene. The case highlights the consequences of unruly behavior on flights, leading to stricter policies and increased fines imposed by the FAA.
Air rage incident over vegetarian food offerings
A retired British business executive, Robert David Croizat, has been arrested and charged following an air rage incident on an American Airlines flight. Croizat allegedly attacked a flight attendant during a flight from Bridgetown to Miami, Florida, in March 2023. The incident began when Croizat learned that vegetarian meals were the only option available in first class and confronted the cabin crew members in an offensive manner.
The situation escalated as Croizat became increasingly aggressive, pushing a flight attendant and pinning another against the door of the cockpit. The man was eventually restrained by another passenger and taken into custody upon arrival in Miami. Croizat has pleaded guilty to 1 misdemeanor count of assault, with the initial felony charge dropped.
Woman hurls a computer during an air rage episode
A 25-year-old woman, Camilia McMillie, was arrested at Miami International Airport after throwing a computer monitor at an American Airlines staff member. The incident occurred while McMillie was waiting for her flight, and her children had wandered away to use the restrooms. She became irate when she realized her children were missing and demanded the gate agent find them.
In her anger, McMillie pulled equipment off a countertop and hurled a computer monitor at the airline staff member. She has been charged with aggravated battery, criminal mischief and disorderly conduct, with an estimated $10,000 worth of damage caused. American Airlines stated that they do not tolerate violence against their staff and support the affected team member.
Common injuries caused by air rage incidents
There are a number of ways air rage incidents can result in harm to crew members during a flight, including:
- Injuries from physical assault. Air rage incidents can lead to physical assaults, such as punches, kicks, or other forms of physical attacks, which can cause injuries like cuts, fractures, internal organ damage and head injuries.
- Injuries from attempting to restrain an unruly passenger. When attempting to restrain or manage unruly passengers, airline workers may experience musculoskeletal injuries, such as strains, sprains, whiplash or back injuries, due to physical exertion or grappling with disruptive individuals.
- Injuries from objects or improvised weapons. In extreme cases, unruly passengers may use objects as weapons or create makeshift weapons from available items on the aircraft, which can cause injuries like lacerations, punctures or burns to airline workers.
- Psychological injuries from verbal abuse and emotional distress. Verbal abuse, threats and aggressive behavior during air rage incidents can cause emotional distress, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other psychological trauma for airline workers.
It’s important to note that air rage incidents and their associated injuries can vary in severity, and the specific injuries suffered by airline workers can depend on the nature of the incident.
Are injuries caused by air rage and violence covered under workers’ comp in Georgia?
Many injured workers falsely believe that workers’ comp only covers specific, limited injuries, and we often get the question: Is violence covered under workers’ comp?
The short answer is yes.
In Georgia, most employers with 3 or more employees are required to provide their workers with workers’ compensation insurance that compensates them in the event of a work-related injury or illness. While violence at work is generally covered under workers’ compensation in Georgia, there are some exceptions, which we’ll discuss below.
What 2 qualifiers must be met for workplace violence to be covered?
In order to qualify for workers’ compensation benefits after sustaining injuries from an air rage incident or any other incident involving violence in the workplace, 2 criteria must be met:
- Scope and course of employment. The injuries resulting from the assault must have occurred within the scope and course of the individual’s employment. Personal disputes that spill over into workplace violence may not be covered unless the incident directly arose out of the employment.
- Non-aggressor status. The injured worker must not have been the aggressor in the incident. If an individual initiates an attack on a coworker or passenger, they will not be eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits. The determination of the aggressor is based on who caused the incident rather than who attacked first. Using “fighting words” against a coworker may be considered aggression.
If you’ve been injured in an air rage incident or other violent act at work, it’s always best to discuss your case with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney who can help establish that you weren’t the aggressor and protect your rights to compensation.
What benefits are injured workers entitled to?
Workers’ compensation provides several benefits to injured employees:
- Medical benefits cover the full cost of necessary medical care, including doctor and hospital visits, treatments, prescriptions, transportation expenses, rehabilitation, therapy and other related expenses.
- Income loss benefits offer wage compensation during the recovery period, equaling two-thirds of the employee’s pre-injury weekly wage.
- Death benefits compensate certain dependents in the unfortunate event of a worker’s death from a work-related injury or illness. Spouses or minor children may receive compensation for lost income and up to $7,500 for funeral expenses.
What steps do injured workers need to take to file a Georgia workers’ comp claim after an air rage incident?
To file a workers’ compensation claim in Georgia after an air rage incident, follow these steps:
- Seek medical attention promptly, choosing from a list of approved physicians provided by your employer or insurance provider. In an emergency, seek immediate care from any provider, but have follow-up care provided by an approved physician.
- Notify your employer about the injury or suspected occupational illness within 30 days, preferably in writing, even if you initially believe you weren’t injured.
- Complete and submit a WC-14 Notice of Claim Form to the State Board of Workers’ Compensation.
- Follow your doctor’s treatment plan and maintain detailed records of your injury and recovery while you wait for the workers’ comp insurer to review your claim and determine your eligibility for benefits.
- If your claim is denied, you have the right to file an appeal. Although not mandatory, seeking legal advice from an experienced work injury lawyer is recommended to protect your rights and assist with the appeal process.
What can be done to reduce air rage on flights?
Flight attendants have proposed various solutions to reduce air rage incidents on flights, including the following:
- Implementing restrictions on alcohol. This includes ending sales of to-go alcohol at airports and discouraging passengers from bringing their own alcohol on board. These measures aim to prevent passengers from consuming excessive alcohol before or during the flight, which can contribute to unruly behavior.
- Criminally charging misbehaving passengers. Flight attendants want the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to take more aggressive action by prosecuting and charging disruptive passengers. The prospect of receiving jail time might serve as a deterrent and decrease these incidents over time.
- Sharing banned passenger lists among airlines. Flight attendants want airlines to share their internal no-fly lists of passengers banned for bad behavior with each other. This information sharing would help ensure that banned individuals could not simply fly with another carrier and continue their disruptive behavior.
- Enhancing accountability through publicity. Publicizing incidents and prosecutions of unruly passengers can send a strong message and act as a deterrent. Flight attendants believe that highlighting cases where passengers face criminal charges and emphasizing the consequences of their actions can discourage others from engaging in disruptive behavior.
- Continuing industry collaboration. Flight attendants want airlines, airports and regulatory bodies to work together to develop comprehensive strategies and protocols for handling unruly passengers. They believe collaborative efforts can help identify best practices and implement effective measures to prevent air rage.
Contact an Atlanta work injury attorney for help with your claim
If you’ve been injured in an air rage incident in Georgia, contact the experienced Atlanta worker injury attorneys at Gerber & Holder Workers’ Compensation Attorneys today.
Our attorneys have over 75 years of combined experience helping injured workers across Georgia recover maximum compensation after an injury. We’re here for you and ready to fight for the compensation you deserve.