SAN FRANCISCO — When the courts have to figure compensation for people aboard Asiana Airlines Flight 214, the potential payouts will probably be vastly different for Americans and passengers from other countries, even if they were seated side by side as the jetliner crash-landed.
An international treaty governs compensation to passengers harmed by international air travel — from damaged luggage to crippling injuries and death. The pact is likely to close US courts to many foreigners and force them to pursue their claims in Asia and elsewhere, where lawsuits are rarer, harder to win, and offer smaller payouts.
Some passengers have already contacted lawyers.
‘‘If you are a US citizen, there will be no problem getting into US courts. The other people are going to have a fight on their hands,’’ said lawyer Frank Pitre, who represents two Americans who were aboard the plane.
The plane that crashed at the San Francisco airport was carrying 141 Chinese, 77 South Koreans, 64 Americans, three Canadians, three Indians, one Japanese, one Vietnamese, and one person from France when it approached the runway too low and too slow. The Boeing 777 hit a sea wall before sliding across the tarmac and catching fire.
Three girls from China were killed and 182 people injured, most not seriously.
Two girls, Ye Mengyuan and Wang Linjia, both 16, died right away. It is unclear, however, whether Ye died in the crash or in the chaotic aftermath. The other victim killed, Liu Yipeng, 15, died Friday at a hospital where she had been in critical condition since the July 6 crash.