The payouts to families of Boeing 737 Max victims could depend on whether and how long they knew they were about to die, lawyers say

boeing 737 max victimnited Nations workers hold a portrait photograph as they mourn their colleagues during a commemoration ceremony for the victims at the scene of the Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET 302 plane crash, near the town Bishoftu, in March 2019.REUTERS/Tiksa NegerI/File Photo

  • People who lost relatives in the two deadly Boeing 737 Max crashes may get more money from Boeing and insurance companies based on how long their relatives knew they were doomed for, according to a lawyer representing families.
  • Joe Power, who is representing some of the families that are suing Boeing told Bloomberg that there is a better chance that families will get damages "if it took minutes rather than seconds for the plane to crash."
  • The preliminary reports into both crashes involving the aircraft say that both planes repeatedly dived and their noses kept pointing down, suggesting that the passengers could have known a crash was imminent.
  • But Boeing has also defended its plane design and has not revealed its legal strategy.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

A lawyer representing the families of Boeing 737 Max victims said that the payout from Boeing and insurance companies could depend on how long passengers knew that their plane was doomed before it fatally crashed.

Joe Power, a Chicago-based personal injury lawyer who is representing some families who lost relatives in the Ethiopian Airlines 737 Max crash in March, told Bloomberg that the longer their loved ones were aware that their plane was doomed, the more likely families are to get compensation.

"There's a better chance of recovery [a legal term denoting compensation] if it took minutes rather than seconds for the plane to crash," he told Bloomberg.

Boeing 737 Max relative.JPGNadia Milleron, whose son was killed in the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing Max 737 crash, as a press conference announcing a wrongful death suit against Boeing in April 2019.REUTERS/Kamil Krzaczynski

Power is representing some of the families of the 157 passengers killed a fatal Ethiopian Airlines crash in March 2019. It was the second crash involving the aircraft in less than five months, after a Lion Air plane crashed in October 2018, killing all 189 people on board.

Read more: Boeing's apology for the fatal 737 Max crashes has prompted more family members of victims of the Lion Air disaster to sue the company

Boeing is facing lawsuits from many of these families, as well as shareholders who allege they were defrauded over safety deficiencies in the plane. Lawsuits have been filed by families around the world, including in the US, Kenya, and Indonesia, and Ethiopia.

boeing 737 max familiesAmerican lawyer Nomi Husain, who represents the family of Kenyan Ethiopian Airlines victim George Kabau, announces plans to file a wrongful-death lawsuit against Boeing in Nairobi, Kenya, in April 2019.REUTERS/Baz Ratner

A Bloomberg analysis said that settling families' claims families could cost the company $1 billion, and potentially more if Boeing is found to have been aware of any safety deficiency of in the 737 Max aircraft.

Boeing has acknowledged that the plane's automated anti-stall system, called MCAS, misfired in both crashes, based on information from the preliminary reports into both crashes. Both reports found that the planes repeatedly dived and that pilots were unable to stop the plane's noses from repeatedly pointing down.

Lawyers told Bloomberg that this would have made passengers aware that their plane could be doomed, and this would likely affect how much money the families receive.

But the company has not made its legal strategy known, and it is not clear what sort of trial will take place, whether it will give cash settlements rather than go to trial, or what information will be revealed as a number of investigations into both crashes and into the plane's certification continue.

Boeing declined to discuss its legal strategy when asked by Bloomberg. Boeing did not answer several calls from Business Insider seeking comment on Monday.

Lion Air flight relatives debrisFamilies of passengers on the Lion Air flight look at the belongings of passengers in Jakarta's Tanjung Priok port.REUTERS/Beawiharta

More families came forward to sue Boeing after the company apologized for the crashes in April, with their lawyers saying that the apology helped their legal case.

But Boeing has also defended the design of its 737 Max and how it was built and certified, as well the safety features included as standard on the aircraft.

Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg vouched for the plane's design and said there was no "technical slip or gap" in building the planes when addressing shareholders in April, and he also defended the company for not disclosing the existence of the MCAS anti-stall software to pilots.

Get the latest Boeing stock price here.

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