Relatives of victims of the Concorde
crash will receive compensation that constitutes a record for Europe,
lawyers acting in the case said. Ninety-six German tourists aboard the
airliner died, along with 13 crew members and four people on the ground,
when it crashed in flames onto an hotel on July 25 last year shortly
after takeoff from Roissy-Charles de Gaulle airport outside Paris.
"The compensation for passengers has now been settled. Labour laws
apply to the flight personnel and that is taking its course," said
Fernand Garnault, who heads the team of lawyers handling the claim
against Air France which operated the supersonic jet.
He added that damages had been paid to the families of two Polish
trainees of the wrecked hotel and that a settlement was closed to being
reached regarding the two other people on the ground who died.
Negotiators reached overall agreement with the families of the
passengers in May after only ten months of talks. Payments to the some
700 recipients concerned began at the end of last month and are now
Half of them have already received a cheque and all should have done so
by the first anniversary of the disaster, German lawyers Gerhart Baum
and Ronald Schmid told AFP last week.
The exact amount the German claimants will receive has not been
revealed, but is believed to exceed $US100 million ($A198 million),
sources close to the discussions said.
The few families who had sought damages in the United States have
dropped their cases, Garnault said.
The compensation issue has been settled remarkably quickly, according
to the lawyers. "The threat of suits in the United States and the desire
to see the Concordes flying again weighed in the balance," Schmid said.
French prestige has also been a factor, other lawyers in the case said.
Schmid said that Air France's insurers increased their original offer
and "changed their tone" with the threat of American suits.
"We finally obtained the highest sum ever conceded in such a case in
Europe," lawyer Ulrich von
Because the plane was headed for New York, the families of the
passengers could have sought damages in the United States, where the
compensation paid in respect of air disasters is a great deal higher
than in Europe.
In the United States, the level of compensation works out at around 2.9
million euros ($A5 million) per victim, lawyers said, against 705,000
euros ($A1.2 million) to a maximum of 2.35 million euros ($A4.1 million)
at best in Europe.
Under German law, the compensation paid in such cases takes into
account only the material and not the moral loss for relatives, and is
fixed at a maximum of around 27,350 euros ($A47,270) per victim, German
Thus by comparison, relatives of the German tourists who died in the
Birgen Air Boeing which crashed off the Dominican Republic in February
1996 received only some 23,000 euros ($A39,750) each.
"The solution that has been found is higher than European standards but
much less than American standards," Garnault said of the Concorde crash
The amount that different relatives of the victims receive varies,
sometimes considerably, according to how closely they were related to
the dead person, Schmid explained.
With their acceptance of the out-of-court settlement, the relatives
renounce the legal right to any further claims for damages.