Stuart Hope is a co-owner of Hope Aviation Insurance. His career as an aviation insurance broker... Read More
Stuart Hope reviews changes in benefits resulting from inaction and mistakes following aviation tragedies. He recommends inclusion of Family Assistance Coverage in a corporation’s Emergency Response Plan.
In the wake of several high profile airline crashes, including ValuJet Flight 592 in Florida, TWA Flight 800 near New York and Pan Am Flight 103 near Lockerbie Scotland, airlines responded to criticism that their behavior toward the families of victims was callous and unfeeling. Actions were taken that resulted in the Aviation Disaster Family Assistance Act (ADFAA), which was introduced in 1997.
ADFAA dramatically improved the response of airlines to family members of accident victims. Following airline crashes that occurred post enactment of ADFAA, family members were so impressed by the airlines’ compassionate response that they actually called to thank the air carrier. The intent of the Act, which is to provide emotional care and support to the immediate family of a deceased crewmember or passenger as well as re-imbursement for reasonable costs of transporting the family to and from the accident site, lodging near the accident site and grief counseling if needed, appears to have been achieved.
General Aviation Insurers Followed Suit
In the last several years, some Business and General Aviation insurance companies have followed suit with the implementation of this coverage. Many of your legacy GA underwriters also provide insurance for the airlines; they felt it simply made sense from a holistic perspective to offer similar benefits for all of their insureds. The coverage was introduced as an endorsement to an aircraft owner’s existing policy and spelled out exactly what was provided.
Like the airline form, coverage is generally meant to provide emotional care and support for the immediate family of a deceased crew member or passenger and can include notification of the next of kin, establish an information distribution center, personal counseling, and even assist with creating a suitable memorial on or near the crash site.
In the aftermath of a fatal aircraft accident, life for the family of an accident victim as well as the aircraft owner becomes frantic and chaotic. These services will feel like a life-line at the time.
Rules of the Road
Family Assistance Coverage (FAC), if offered by your insurance carrier, has a comprehensive list of benefits. Ask your broker if your policy includes provisions of the FAC.
- FACs are typically added by endorsement (if your insurer offers it). Request your aviation insurance broker to check with your insurance carrier and add it if available.
- Not all accounts qualify for FAC coverage.
- The coverage normally has a negotiable dollar limit for each person, which can range from a low of $25,000 per person to $500,000 or higher. One insurer doesn’t have a ceiling on the coverage limit.
- The specific coverage wording varies by insurance company, some broader than others. This element of FAC is tricky to ascertain. Your aviation insurance broker can help you decipher the details.
- Coverage applies for a time-limit of a year from the date of the accident.
Each insurance company treats FAC coverage a little differently. Some insurers make the argument that the relevant provisions are already covered under the liability coverage component of the policy and therefore do not need to be endorsed. They argue that by endorsing FAC provisions on a policy and spelling out exactly what is covered, the endorsement actually restricts coverage since benefits have been specified. The insurers who are offering the coverage by endorsement make the argument that without such specifics the aircraft owner will not know what the insurance company will actually cover. Both interpretations are probably right to some extent.
In today’s environment of news that travels in real-time over social media, insurance companies and aircraft owners need to make sure they are on the same page after an accident.
The first rule is ALWAYS the same. Take care of the people!
Not only is it the right thing to do, both the insurance company and you as the aircraft owner have a brand to protect. How you treat and take care of the people involved in a tragedy means everything, now more than ever.
It is imperative that family members of victims after an accident be handled by individuals who have received formal training in this area. Mishandling the situation is easy to do by well-meaning but untrained staff. Mistakes and miscues cannot be undone. Make sure your flight department is aware of FAC and incorporates the tool of Family Assistance Coverage in your Emergency Response Plan.