Lufthansa today offered what it calls a "preliminary" payment to the relatives of each victim of the Germanwings crash, a sum of $54,800, reports NBC News. But preliminary is a key word, because the airline will surely be shelling out much, much more. For starters, a world treaty requires airlines to pay families up to about $157,000 each after the crash of an international flight, no matter what caused it, reports AP. But in this case, given that investigators think the co-pilot crashed it intentionally after hiding his mental health problems, the airline is on the hook for "unlimited financial damage," says one aviation lawyer.
Another expert in the field quoted by Bloomberg agrees. “The liability for the victims would be uncapped,” he says. “From the perspective of the airline it’s difficult. There are no real defenses that you can use. It is irrational. That is why you buy insurance.” In fact, the airline's insurance should cover it even if investigators definitively conclude that pilot Andreas Lubitz committed suicide and took passengers along with him, says a lawyer from London's Stewarts Law LLP. The firm predicts total damages will come in around $350 million.