An aviation lawyer says passengers on Latam Airlines flight LA800, which suddenly lost altitude on Monday, could get compensation ‘in the millions”.

Passengers flying from Sydney to Auckland on the Boeing 787-9 were thrown around the cabin and some slammed into the ceiling when the plane dropped several hundred feet.

At least 50 people were treated by St John Ambulance staff at Auckland Airport. Director of Carter Capner Law, Peter Carter, said many passengers on the Latam flight would need compensation for medical treatment.

He told Stuff Travel compensation depended on the extent of injury, and in most cases, whether the person was able to continue their usual working life.

“So someone who’s barred from doing that … would be entitled to seven figures, in the millions, potentially depending on their situation.”

Chile is a member state of the Montreal 1999 Convention, which establishes airline liability in the case of injury to passengers, which pays up to NZS279,000 for proven losses like medical expenses, loss of amenities of life and income loss for proven bodily injury.

Carter said that now, the airline also had to pay for proven losses above that figure unless it proved that the accident was not due to its negligence or that of its pilots or engineers.

“So in that respect, there is no longer a limit on compensation, and all passengers on Monday’s flight, irrespective of where they live, are able to claim.”

If the accident was found to have nothing to do with the airline, then passengers would be capped at the $270,000 in damages, he said, and could seek a payout from the party found at fault.

He said the incident was ‘eerily similar’ to an incident on a Qantas flight almost 16 years ago. Caner acted for passengers aboard QF72 from Singapore to Perth in 2008 when a flight control computer twice commanded the aircraft to nosedive over the Indian Ocean, causing serious injuries.

“Just like Monday’s Latam Airlines flight LA800 accident, passengers on QF72 were flung weightless to the cabin ceiling during the dive, and fell to the cabin floor or on to seat armrests.

He said that following the QF72 accident, the aviation injury compensation liability regime changed for the better, to allow passengers to claim higher amounts of compensation. Carter said he was investigating a claim for passengers aboard the Latam Airlines flight.

‘We’ll have to wait until we have more details, but we are collecting details from passengers that have logged on to the Facebook page.”

Carter said people should keep a record of their boarding pass and their medical expenses.

“When a passenger goes through an ordeal like this, it is terrifying, and as well as many serious physical Injuries, there can be long-term psychological damage.” he said.

The Montreal Convention did not apply to psychological trauma unless it related to a physical injury, he said.

Chile’s accident investigation authority has opened an investigation and has asked for the assistance of the New Zealand Transport Accident Investigation Commission.