Compensation sought for MH17 victims' families
Australia is being urged to work with other countries affected by the MH17 disaster to set up an international compensation fund.
The Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 is believed to have been downed over eastern Ukraine on July 17 by pro-Russian separatists firing a surface-to-air missile, killing all 298 people on board including 38 Australians.
The aircraft had been flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur in airspace considered by many airlines to be too risky.
Shine Lawyers senior solicitor Joseph Wheeler has been working in the law firm's aviation department on options for compensation for families of victims.
Wheeler said one of the best options would be for a multi-country fund to be set up to help the families.
This would avoid a ''long and drawn-out combination of politics and diplomacy'', seen after previous disasters such as the Lockerbie bombing.
''We will be lobbying the government of all the nationalities affected to set up some sort of victims fund to compensate them earlier,'' Wheeler said.
''That would be the most expedient, because if there are pressures like sanctions to get a certain government who is responsible to come to the negotiating table it is going to take time.
''During this time families have needs.''
At the time of the downing of MH17, international aviation authorities had been working to limit the air safety threat caused by the fighting in the Ukraine. The jetliner had been flying at 33,000 feet, which was technically out of restricted airspace.
Since April the area had been subject to various NOTAMs (notices to airmen) warning pilots of the risks of flying in the region.
A UK NOTAM issued on June 30 said: ''Potentially hazardous situation Ukraine airspace ... UK aircraft operators are strongly advised to avoid until further notice.''
Wheeler said Malaysia Airlines had offered families $US50,000 ($NZ59,000) but anyone signing up to this needed to be careful they were not also signing away their legal rights.
''This is a woefully low amount of money,'' he said.
Victims' families have a range of avenues and jurisdictions in which to seek compensation under international conventions, which could potentially be in the millions of dollars.
Claims could be lodged in Malaysia where the aircraft was registered, or in Australia if a passenger was a permanent resident, or in the final place of destination for any of the passengers regardless of nationality.
Settling out of court is another possibility.
British lawyers have been examining a class action against Russian President Vladimir Putin through US courts but this is considered unlikely to succeed.