Lawyers say fam­i­lies key to set­tle­ment

China Daily (Canada) - - CHINA - By ZHANG CHUNYAN and CE­CILY LIU in Lon­don

Get­ting to the truth of what hap­pened to Malaysia Air­lines Flight MH370 is the first pri­or­ity, se­nior lawyers said in Lon­don, and the com­mit­tee of vic­tims’ fam­i­lies is a pow­er­ful ve­hi­cle through which to de­mand fair and equal treat­ment from in­sur­ance com­pa­nies rep­re­sent­ing the air­line and air­craft.

“Sadly, the re­al­ity seems that the plane has crashed. It is vi­tal that the black boxes are lo­cated, re­cov­ered and an­a­lyzed to get to the truth of what hap­pened,” James Healy-Pratt, part­ner and head of the Avi­a­tion and Travel Depart­ment of Lon­don-based Ste­warts Law, told China Daily.

The law firm has helped fam­i­lies of pas­sen­gers who were aboard Air France’s flight 447, which went miss­ing in 2009 and was found days later.

David Tang, an ex­pe­ri­enced Chi­nese-Bri­tish lawyer and pi­lot, is work­ing with Ste­warts to of­fer le­gal ad­vice to fam­i­lies of the Chi­nese pas­sen­gers aboard the Malaysian air­craft.

Tang and Healy- Pratt both stressed that the fam­ily com­mit­tee for MH370 will give them a sin­gle fo­cus point to ex­ert their views on the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, get to the truth and also stop sim­i­lar dis­as­ters from hap­pen­ing again.

“We helped many fam­i­lies of Air France 447 in 2009, and the fam­ily as­so­ci­a­tion was a pow­er­ful way of the fam­i­lies sup­port­ing each other at this dif­fi­cult time,” Healy-Pratt said.

Tang and Healy-Pratt have pro­vided sup­port and as­sis­tance through their in­ter­na­tional le­gal team of US, UK and Chi­nese lawyers to get the fam­ily com­mit­tee es­tab­lished.

As Malaysia Air­lines’ in­sur­ance en­tity is based in Lon­don, Healy-Pratt said, “We know that it has at least $1.5 bil­lion for this ac­ci­dent, but have only set aside $250 mil­lion for pas­sen­ger claims. Clearly this is not enough, and in our ex­pe­ri­ence in help­ing fam­i­lies in these cases, we be­lieve a more real­is­tic sum to be set aside would be $900 mil­lion.”

“The Chi­nese fam­i­lies will have the sup­port of the fam­ily as­so­ci­a­tion in ne­go­ti­a­tions, as well as our le­gal and tech­ni­cal sup­port in ne­go­ti­at­ing with the Lon­don avi­a­tion in­sur­ers. Those avi­a­tion in­sur­ers have al­ready hired ex­pert avi­a­tion lawyers to de­fend them,” Healy-Pratt said.

Malaysia Air­lines’ in­sur­ers have hired an ex­pen­sive team of avi­a­tion lawyers from Lon­don and Sin­ga­pore to de­fend the air­line.

“No money will ever bring any­one back from MH370, but we will be de­mand­ing fair and equal treat­ment for all fam­i­lies who lost their loved ones here,” Healy-Pratt said.

Tang said fam­i­lies nor­mally need three months to get com­pen­sa­tion from in­sur­ers in an air ac­ci­dent, “but this time, we think we need more time as the ac­ci­dent of flight MH370 is very com­pli­cated”.

“Also, we be­lieve the fam­i­lies will be press­ing for changes to air­line prac­tice by mak­ing it manda­tory for live dig­i­tal stream­ing data to be sent by ev­ery commercial air­liner giv­ing in­for­ma­tion about its pre­cise po­si­tion. Many air­lines now use this tech­nol­ogy,” Healy-Pratt said. Con­tact the writ­ers at zhangchun­yan@chi­nadaily. com.cn and ce­cily.liu@ chi­nadaily.com.cn

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