No Limits on Liability for Damage to Wheelchairs

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Monday, July 26, 1999 Contact: Bill Adams Tel.: (202) 366-5580 DOT 110-99

New Rule Avoids Airline Liability Limit For Damage to Wheelchairs

As part of the Clinton administration’s ongoing efforts to ensure fair treatment for airline passengers with disabilities, the U.S. Department of Transportation today said that airlines cannot limit their liability for loss or damage to passengers’ wheelchairs and other assistive devices.

“President Clinton and Vice President Gore are committed to making our transportation system fully inclusive of all Americans,” U.S. Secretary of Transportation Rodney E. Slater said. “This new rule ensures that passengers with disabilities can recover burdensome repair or replacement costs if their wheelchairs are lost or damaged in flight.”

The new Department of Transportation rule makes final a proposal issued on Feb. 17.

Previously, airlines could limit to $2,500 their liability for wheelchairs and other devices that assist passengers with disabilities. The department noted that while most loss or damage claims for wheelchairs are less than $2,500, replacement costs for power wheelchairs could cost considerably more — over $13,000 in one case reported to the Department of Transportation.

The new rule continues the department’s initiative, announced by Vice President Gore in March, to ensure that airline passengers are treated fairly. The department has proposed to raise from $1,250 to $2,500 the limit that airlines may invoke on liability for lost or damaged baggage for all passengers on domestic flights. Also last March, the Department of Transportation required airlines and travel agents to notify passengers if their flight involved a change of planes, as well as to disclose in writing if any part of a flight involves code-sharing, in which a carrier other than the one selling the ticket operates the flight.

The rule will go into effect 30 days after publication in the Federal Register.

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