The helicopter is certainly a unique and special creation. It has the ability to lift off the ground vertically, and then fly horizontally – in any direction. Probably the most unique attribute of the helicopter is its ability to hover in the air. The helicopter has become essential in our society, has a plethora of functions, and has saved countless lives.
Unfortunately, the helicopter is also more likely to crash than any other type of aircraft, and when it does crash – often just plopping to the ground – the results are often deadly. And in crashes that are not deadly, the vertical drop often crushes the spine, resulting in severe and permanent disability.
If you were injured in a helicopter crash, or if a loved one lost their life in a helicopter crash, you may potentially pursue monetary compensation in a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit.
Helicopters have many purposes, including the following:
- Personal transportation
- Business transportation
- Commercial aerial services such as photography and mapping
- Sightseeing and air tours
- News reporting
- Traffic reporting
- Emergency rescue
- Air ambulance services
- Land assessment
- Disaster relief, rescue and evacuation
- Firefighting and police work
- Agricultural work
- Utilities patrol
- Instruction and training
- Rescue services at sea
- Military operations
- Transportation to and from oil rigs
- Transportation to and from watercraft
The Federal Aviation Administration reported the following number of helicopter crashes and fatalities in the US during a recent three year period:
- 2016 total accidents: 106
- 2016 fatal accidents: 17
- 2015 total accidents: 121
- 2015 fatal accidents: 17
- 2014 total accidents: 138
- 2014 fatal accidents: 21
Accident rates vary, and in 2016 there were 3.19 accidents per 100,000 flight hours. While that number may sound relatively small, helicopter crashes are amongst the most deadly and dangerous of all aircraft crashes.
There are many causes of helicopter crashes, including human and mechanical error:
- Pilot or human error (operational error, decision-making errors, etc.)
- “Controlled Flight Into Terrain” - CFIT
- Mechanical malfunction – most often, engine failure
- Design flaw
- Manufacturing flaw
- Flight manual error
- Weather-related issues, including flying in prohibitive, inclement weather
- Electrical malfunction
- Communication error
- Maintenance error
- Failure to adequately inspect helicopter before flight
- Flight planning error
- Pilot insufficiently trained
- Ground crew error
- Negligence in safety-related aspects – “weak safety culture”
- Quality control issues
- Overloading or improper loading
- Fuel-related issues, including running out of fuel
- Failure to abide by FAA regulations
- Failure to include a crash-resistant fuel system
- Failure to include crash absorbing seats
- Cooling and/or lubrication system errors
Helicopter Crash Liability
Helicopter and aviation crashes are investigated and assessed by two agencies, The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Unlike many other types of aircraft, most helicopters do not have black boxes, usually resulting in complex investigations. Investigations are absolutely necessary, not just to determine the cause of each particular crash, but because a mechanical failure on one helicopter model may represent a design or mechanical flaw affecting all other similarly manufactured helicopters. In some cases, entire fleets are grounded until the design or manufacturing defects are found.
Questions that must be answered:
- What caused the crash?
- Was the pilot at fault?
- Was the pilot properly trained?
- Was the pilot healthy?
- Was the pilot intoxicated?
- Was there a design flaw in the helicopter?
- Was there a mechanical malfunction in the aircraft that the helicopter company or pilot should have known about, and/or was there one in similar models?
- All questions relevant to the determination of negligence, liability and fault will be pursued.
Liability may potentially be shared by numerous individuals and entities, such as the manufacturer, design team, underwriters, sales and distribution companies, insurance companies, pilot, airport, administrators, and others. When there is negligence resulting in injury or death, the victim or survivors may pursue compensatory damages.
You can reach Miami Personal Injury Lawyer J.P. Gonzalez-Sirgo by dialing his direct number at (786) 272-5841, calling the main office at (305) 461-1095, or Toll Free at 1 (866) 71-CLAIM or email Attorney Gonzalez-Sirgo directly at [email protected].