Aviation: What Is a Life Worth?

An average of 1,000 people around the world are killed in commercial airline crashes each year. Under the 1929 Warsaw Convention, a civil aviation treaty now covering 92 nations, the heirs of those who died on international flights could for many years collect only a maximum of $8,291*—unless they could prove willful misconduct. The U.S., whose citizens are the world's most frequent and most affluent air travelers, has for years considered this figure ridiculously low. Even after 45 of the Warsaw signers agreed to double the liability to $16,582 in 1955, the...

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