Miracle on Hudson Passengers Rip AIG

Insurer may not be liable for act of geese

Passengers from the US Airways plane that made a miraculous landing on the Hudson River say the insurance company handling their claims has not performed as valiantly as the pilot who saved their lives.

Paul Jorgenson, who was aboard the flight, said his trouble with AIG began days after the harrowing incident, when he started to need his laptop, wallet and car keys — all of which he had stowed under his seat and left behind in the sinking plane, according to The New York Times.

Jorgenson said US Airways initially told him he would be taken care of, but once AIG, the airline's insurer, got involved, the pushback began.

“Everything went downhill,” Jorgenson, a software executive in Charlotte, N.C., told The Times.

Unlike an auto or homeownner's claim, aviation liability insurance is only activated by a finding of negligence on the part of an airline. No negligence means no liability.

Passengers of US Airways Flight 1549 say they suffered real losses and injuries, but The Times points out that they are widely seen as having been saved by their heroic and quick-thinking flight crew, led by Capt. Chesley Sullenberger.

And since geese getting sucked into the engine forced the plane down, it's tough to pin the blame on the airline.

“Insurance companies try to protect their assets, obviously,” said Bruce Chadbourne, a co-author of the book, “Introduction to Aviation Insurance and Risk Management,” and a professor in the business school at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Fla. With the airline wearing a halo, A.I.G. “is going to play hardball.”

A spokeswoman for AIG declined to comment.

US Airways issued each passenger a check for $5,000 shortly after the accident to cover their immediate needs, but declined to discuss the airline’s liability insurance policy or claims processes.

Tess Sosa, who was aboard Flight 1549 with her husband, 4-year-old daughter and infant son, said she suffered a mild concussion during the landing, and her husband was treated for a leg injury and hypothermia. The family, from New York, continues to get hospital bills, she told The Times. But her top priority was getting the insurer to pay for therapy to reduce the risk of post-traumatic stress disorder for her and her daughter.

Sosa said daughter Sophia “remembers everything. I just want her to walk away from this knowing that we did everything we could to make it make sense.” AIG agents have told her that for therapy she should use her own health insurance, but it has a $3,000 deductible for mental health care.

“Why should we be paying out of pocket?” she said. “That’s why they’re there. They’re the insurer.”

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