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Friday, January 30, 2015, 09:34

Work starts on compensation claims

By Luo Wangshu
Work starts on compensation claims

A Malaysia Airlines employee writes a message on a poster expressing prayers and thoughts for passengers on board missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang, Malaysia, on March 14, 2014. (Manan Vatsyayana / AFP)

A Chinese legal team is prepared to discuss compensation with Malaysia Airlines after Malaysia's Department of Civil Aviation officially declared the disappearance of Malaysia Air-lines Flight MH370 to be an accident on Thursday.

"The work to seek compensation can start now that the air-line has declared the disappearance an accident," said Zang Hongliang, a lawyer from the Beijing Global Law Office who is deputy director of the legal team representing dozens of relatives of Chinese passengers aboard Flight MH370.

Datuk Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, director-general of the Department of Civil Aviation in Malaysia, said in a statement on Thursday that the Malaysian government will ensure that Malaysia Airlines will undertake its responsibilities, including "the fulfillment of the compensation process. ... We further understand that Malaysia Airlines is ready to proceed immediately with the compensation process."

Zang said relatives have not yet come to an agreement on the amount of compensation, but added that the legal team has time on its side.

According to the Montreal Convention, a multilateral treaty to which both Malaysia and China are signatories, lawsuits in aircraft accidents have two years in which to be filed. For relatives of victims of Flight MH370, this means they have until March 7, 2016, to file a claim.

Amounts of compensation vary. A widely used method calculates individual compensation based on a victim's age and salary to arrive at a sum for lost income, the lawyer said.

"We are prepared for all possibilities, and we are ready," Zang said.

The legal team of 11 lawyers has conducted research, interviewed relatives, collected evidence and consulted internationally recognized legal teams in the past 10 months, aiming to maximize their clients' compensation.

"We have consulted with relatives and conducted face-to-face interviews with them," Zang said, adding that the legal team has interviewed relatives in many city, provinces and regions, including Beijing and Tianjin; Hebei, Hunan and Gansu provinces; and the Xin-jiang Uygur autonomous region.

These interviews are a key process in collecting evidence, and they often take four to five hours.

Niu Linna, a lawyer from the Beijing Zhongzhao Law Firm and also a member of the legal team, said she is in charge of claims in Hebei and Shandong provinces and has begun to talk with clients.

She admitted that collecting evidence for the claims presents some challenges.

"For instance, unlike in Western countries, it is difficult to calculate passengers' monthly income based on tax invoices in China," she said.

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