THE families of the victims in the Pan Am crash in Lockerbie eight years ago are still waiting for their money. Not a single claimant has received a penny of compensation because of the extreme difficulty of proving wilful misconduct on the part of the airline as required by the agreements on aircraft liability. The chances of this unfortunate situation occurring again are now much less likely, if not impossible, due to the signing of a new streamlined agreement on passenger liability. The inter-carrier agreement on passenger liability, as brokered by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and signed by 12 airlines yesterday, makes proving negligence or wilful misconduct unnecessary. It does away with the upper limits on how much compensation must be paid. Lorne Clark, the IATA's general counsel and corporate secretary, says if the new agreement had been in place at the time of the Lockerbie crash, all of the families would have been paid within two years. For the airlines, the agreement will likely see them paying much higher compensation than previously, although, to be fair, many already did. A number adhere to the original limit of US$10,000 as established in 1929 - a 'woefully inadequate' figure, according to Mr Clark. The agreement may also cost airlines extra in insurance fees as brokers become worried about the scale of possible payouts. Despite these possible drawbacks, it was the airlines themselves which had pushed for the agreement, via the IATA, a body of 235 of the world's major carriers. For them, the benefits far outweigh the costs. Stories about the failure of Pan Am and others to pay out reasonable amounts of compensation have done plenty of damage to their credibility. So too have the mere existence of arbitrary limits which seem to set air travel apart from other modes of transport as somewhat uniquely dangerous. The signing yesterday was described by one of the signatories as a quantum leap in modernisation and in many ways it was. It ensures that a little more sense is brought into the world, and the families of victims like those at Lockerbie have one less thing to burden them.