Helicopters are highly complex machines requiring intricate design, construction, maintenance, and skills in operation. Because these machines require such precision in order to ensure safe manufacture and use, the smallest problem could lead to a disastrous helicopter crash. A tiny part malfunction or a momentary negligent act could result in serious injury or death. With so many possible contributing factors involved in a helicopter crash, it is often difficult to identify the true cause of the accident or who is ultimately responsible for it.
At Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman, P.C., our lawyers have extensive experience in performing a thorough helicopter accident investigation and pursuing full and fair compensation on behalf of the victims and their families. Our firm works with some of the best experts in helicopter safety, design and manufacturing, in order to find the answers that victims and their families need and the justice they deserve.
Baum Hedlund has handled cases involving over 650 passengers and crew injured or killed in aviation accidents, including helicopter crashes across the U.S. and abroad. These helicopter crashes have involved general negligence or product liability claims against the helicopter owners and operators, as well as helicopter manufacturers such as Aerospatiale, Airbus Helicopters, Bell Helicopter Textron, Eurocopter, Boeing, Hughes Helicopters, L-3 Communications, McDonnell Douglas, MD Helicopters, Messerschmitt-Bolkow Blohm, Robinson Helicopters, and Sikorsky.
Our helicopter accident attorneys have represented victims in a wide variety of helicopter crash cases, including:
- Helicopter sightseeing tours
- Medical air-ambulance rescue operations
- Work-related helicopter flights
- Industrial and construction operations
- Professional aerial photography
- Fire fighting operations
- Logging enterprises
- Military helicopter operations
What Causes Helicopter Crashes?
After decades of experience in this field, we have seen many reasons why helicopter crashes occur and we have worked hard to improve helicopter safety by bringing many of these issues to light.
Among the most common causes of a helicopter crashes are:
- Manufacturing defect/product liability
- Pilot error or other human factors
- Aircraft design defect
- Aircraft maintenance negligence
- Air traffic control — government or contractor error
- Helicopter pad operator negligence
- Poor weather conditions
According to helicopter safety statistics, helicopters crash more often than small planes and vastly more often than large airliners. At Baum Hedlund, we have found that there are several factors that contribute to the higher accident rate. Helicopters are a unique kind of aircraft capable of vertical flight. They can effectively move back and forth, hover, and quickly change altitude in ways that airplanes cannot. Due to these differences, a helicopter can operate low to the ground and in areas that require a high level of maneuverability, such as between buildings, or near mountain ranges. This makes them ideal for use in military operations, medical or air ambulance services, search and rescue missions, and filming, sightseeing, or surveying excursions. However, many of these ideal uses for helicopters have inherent dangers of their own.
Military or medical helicopters are often flown into dangerous and stressful situations where the potential for pilot error is heightened. Flying low through buildings in order to rescue an accident victim is very not easy and these sensitive operations are made even more difficult when you consider that most helicopters don't have a set flight path or the controlled environment of an airport runway and air traffic controllers to assist them. Even with the assistance of air traffic control or helicopter pad operators, human error can play a part in causing helicopter crashes. Inaccurate information or a brief moment of inattention can bring about disaster when there is so much at stake.
Since helicopters are so tricky to operate and maintain, even leisure activities involving helicopters, such as sightseeing tours, have particular dangers associated with them. Many exciting sightseeing destinations, like Hawaii, have very unpredictable weather patterns and helicopters are naturally more vulnerable to bad weather than planes.
Another important factor that may add to the higher helicopter crash rate is that helicopters have many more moving parts than a plane, which means there are more parts that can potentially malfunction. Each individual moving part is essential to the operation of the aircraft and if any one of those parts is improperly designed or manufactured, deadly helicopter crashes can be the result. Additionally, because these parts are in constant motion they wear out faster than most plane parts and require very specific inspection and maintenance in order to continue functioning properly. If the helicopter maintenance provider is negligent and skips steps or fails to notice an issue with the aircraft it can easily lead to helicopter accidents.
While we work tirelessly to receive appropriate compensation for our clients, we also make it a priority to help improve helicopter safety by exposing bad business practices and fighting against improper aviation laws that put lives at risk. One case that exemplifies our efforts was a helicopter air ambulance case that we took to trial, changing aviation law in the process. The case involved a Los Angeles Fire Department helicopter picking up a girl seriously injured in a car accident. While the helicopter air ambulance was transporting the girl to Children's Hospital in Los Angeles, the tail rotor fractured and broke apart, causing the helicopter to crash in Griffith Park. Three paramedics and the injured girl were killed. Although the helicopter company knew previously of the tail rotor problem and in turn notified the military to change all of the helicopters' maximum flight time, civil aviation was not notified. Our firm changed aviation law when we argued that a life is a life and that where the identical part is used in both civil and military aircraft, the manufacturer must notify the FAA of a parts failure even if the failure occurs in a military aircraft. The Appeals Court agreed. The result: manufacturers can no longer hide dangerous parts from the FAA and operators of aircraft. This allows for remedial action not otherwise possible.
Examples of Our Helicopter Crash Cases
Below are some examples of our helicopter crash cases. We also provide a complete list of our helicopter crash case history.
A/MH-6M "Little Bird" Military Helicopter Crash, Ft. Benning, Georgia, 2011
On August 8, 2011, two accomplished military pilots were operating an AH-6M helicopter in a routine training exercise when an unexpected malfunction lead to a fatal helicopter crash that killed both of the officers. We filed suit alleging that manufacturing flaws and quality assurance failures, lead the aircraft and parts manufacturers to provide an unreliable, unsafe, defectively manufactured helicopter that had safety issues with the engine, fuel control system, and other flight components.
Maryland State Police Helicopter Crash, Forestville, Maryland, 2008
After an automobile crash on September 27, 2008, Maryland state police sent a helicopter to pick up a 17 year-old who was injured in the accident and transport her to a nearby hospital. During the trip to the hospital the helicopter was forced to divert due to adverse weather and ended up crashing in a wooded park area. The helicopter crash killed four people on board, including the injured patient being transported. The National Transportation Safety Board conducted an investigation and found that a combination of factors, including outdated weather information from the air traffic controller, caused the crash.
We sued the FAA alleging that the air traffic controllers were negligent in their communications with the helicopter, and additionally that the controllers were unresponsive and inattentive when the pilot asked for help. Also, the State of Maryland filed a lawsuit against the FAA alleging that the air traffic controllers were not able to handle ground-based radar guides and therefore gave the pilot of the medevac helicopter weather information that was about five hours old.
Classic Helicopter Corp., Charter Helicopter Crash, near Easton, Washington, 2007
On August 2, 2007 just outside of Easton, Washington a Robinson R44 helicopter crashed shortly after takeoff in mountainous terrain. Witnesses reported seeing the helicopter takeoff and ascend to approximately 30 feet, then after about 100 feet of travel, the tail started swaying side to side, and the pilot had to get it down, albeit with a hard landing. A post-crash fire consumed the helicopter and those onboard. All four passengers sustained fatal injuries. Our helicopter crash lawsuit alleged that a design flaw in the helicopter lead the occupants to burn to death after a very survivable, low impact helicopter accident. The work our firm performed in this case helped lead to safer design of the fuel tanks in the R44.
Heli USA Airways, Sightseeing Helicopter Tour Crash, Kauai, Hawaii, 2005
An Aerospatiale Helicopter operated by Heli-USA Airways Inc. crashed into the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Kailiu Point on September 23, 2005. The helicopter was in the process of a sightseeing helicopter tour when the pilot continued to fly in adverse weather conditions. This resulted in the loss of control after an encounter with a microburst. Also contributing to the accident was the inadequate FAA surveillance of operating restrictions and a lack of flotation equipment on the helicopter. Three passengers suffered minor injuries, and three others were drowning-related fatalities.
Contact a Helicopter Crash Lawyer
Our skilled helicopter crash lawyers are experienced in aviation law as well as the technical operations of an aircraft. We understand how to investigate the causes of helicopter accidents and identify all responsible parties.
Several Baum Hedlund attorneys are described in Aviation Counsel Magazine's 2001 list of Recommended High Flyers (considered by International Air Transport Association's (IATA) Legal Department as one of "the most elite lists of aviation law practitioners ever produced") to be "among the best aviation lawyers in the world by the aviation legal community."
Contact our experienced aviation attorneys for thorough investigation and aggressive pursuit of your personal injury or wrongful death claim.
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