Aviation insurance specialists said that an airline’s liability insurer is not normally there for medical bills after a plane crash. Passengers’ health insurance may indeed pay first — for passengers who have it — or workers’ compensation for passengers traveling on business. Later, if liability is established, those insurers circle back and try to get reimbursed from the airline’s liability insurer.
But that does not help accident survivors who have expenses in the meantime.
A.I.G. has told Ms. Sosa and other passengers that it would pay for therapy, but only for three sessions.
“It’s like telling me, ‘We aren’t responsible for this. This is your trauma. You deal with it,’ ” Ms. Sosa said.
In one exasperated conversation with an A.I.G. claims official, she invoked the taxpayer bailout, saying she doubted Congress and the Obama administration would approve of the stonewalling. The official “told me their division didn’t get a cent from the bailout,” she said.
Mr. Jorgenson, the software executive, said he did not have unpaid medical bills, but was frustrated about his claims for missing possessions. He sells specialized software to hedge funds and other investment companies, and must travel frequently to financial centers, wearing expensive suits and shoes, and carrying valuable computer equipment. He recently got some of his clothing back from the airline but the shoes were ruined, he said. One suit was missing its jacket, and his cufflinks and sunglasses are still gone. He got his wallet back but not the cash it held, he said.
Because he could document losses of more than $5,000, A.I.G. sent him a second $5,000, with a letter saying he could get an additional $10,000 if he signed a statement releasing it from any further claims. Other passengers are also being asked to sign the release in exchange for $10,000.
Mr. Jorgenson said he thought this was disingenuous, because some degree of liability might eventually be established. Then A.I.G.’s policy would be in play, but the passengers would have signed away their claims.
Mr. Chadbourne said he was not surprised to see A.I.G. holding firm.
“They really cannot row their own boat, totally, because they’ve got other people that they are making decisions for,” he said, explaining that an aviation liability policy typically spreads the risks among 8 or 10 insurers, with one lead underwriter — in this case A.I.G. — handling claims on behalf of the group. (Although A.I.G. is not the lead underwriter on the missing Air France flight, it is part of an insurance pool with potential liability.)
“Even though they’re giving the passengers a hard time, eventually they will be compensated to some extent,” he said. “There’s no big pot because there’s no death. But there’s still mental distress, and it is a compensatable illness which, eventually, in my opinion, they deserve. They went through hell.”