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Helicopter Accidents


Like the one that occurred in Honolulu in the video below, a helicopter crash can be a terrifying experience. While helicopters are used far less frequently than commercial and private planes, hundreds of people fly in helicopters each year (most of the time, these trips are for thrill-seeking or tour purposes).

Like cars, boats, or commercial planes, riding in a helicopter can be dangerous, and a crash may happen when negligence is present. In fact, between the years 1990 to 2000, there were 2,211 helicopter crashes reported.

Sometimes, helicopter crashes are unavoidable. For example, weather patterns may change suddenly and violently, affecting a pilot’s ability to control their aircraft. In most cases, though, helicopter accidents occur because of mechanical errors and human errors.

Why Do Helicopter Crashes Occur?

As stated above, most helicopter crashes are entirely avoidable. They would not occur for mechanical errors – which often would not happen but for human errors – and acts of helicopter pilot negligence. Some of the top causes of helicopter crashes include:

  • Failure of helicopter parts. A helicopter part failure can quickly contribute to a problem or crash, and the failure may be of the engine, rotors, or other systems component. Parts fail most of the time because they are defectively designed, defectively manufactured, improperly repaired, or not maintained.
  • Pilot negligence. The job of a helicopter pilot is essential. Unfortunately, a pilot may fail to exercise the proper duty required for a given situation. For example, a pilot may operate the craft while overly fatigued or intoxicated, operate without adequate training, or fail to respond safely and reasonably if a problem occurs.
  • Objects in the way. In some cases, a helicopter crash may occur because of objects in the way – such as tree branches – that the helicopter runs into. While things may interfere with the helicopter’s path due to unforeseeable forces (like high winds), most of the time, this too is a result of pilot error.

A third party’s actions may contribute to or cause a helicopter accident in some cases. For example, an improper lookout may contribute to a crash, or a lack of fuel may result in a collision.

The causes of helicopter accidents listed above open the doors for several questions about liability. Those parties who may be held liable in a helicopter crash include, but are not limited to:

  • The pilot;
  • The helicopter company;
  • A co-pilot or passenger;
  • A helicopter manufacturer or parts manufacturer; or
  • A repair company or maintenance company.
Helicopter Crashes Are Serious

The nature of helicopter crashes makes them much more dangerous than your typical motor vehicle accident. While people commonly walk away from fender benders unharmed, it is rare for a person to walk away from a helicopter crash unscathed. Common injuries in helicopter crashes include:

  • Severe burn injuries. When a helicopter crash occurs, fire is expected. If an individual escapes from the wreckage alive, they may have severe, third-degree burns on various areas of their body. These burns can be more than painful but permanently disfiguring, too.
  • Amputation injuries. Another injury type that can occur when a helicopter crash is amputating a limb. Sometimes, a limb can also be crushed or damaged to the point that surgical amputation is necessary.
  • Tragically, some helicopter crashes occur over water. When this is the case, the helicopter passengers may be unable to escape from the craft in time as water rushes in, resulting in death by drowning. In some cases, a person may survive a near-drowning experience but be left with permanent brain damage as a result.

In addition to the above, fatal injuries are also common. Helicopter accidents are often severe enough to result in the death of all persons on board.

Filing a Helicopter Crash Claim

If you have suffered a severe injury or lost a loved one in a helicopter crash in Sacramento or surrounding areas, you undoubtedly have questions about what is next. Maybe you are wondering how you will pay your medical bills – especially if you did not have health insurance or have exhausted your policy limits – or how you will pay your mortgage now that you are injured to the point that you cannot return to work. Or, maybe you are wondering who will care for your children now that your spouse is no longer with you, or how you will ever be able to enjoy the outdoors on your own again. These are all questions that helicopter crash victims face.

While nothing can give you back the things, you have lost in a helicopter crash, filing a personal injury claim can help you recover damages to compensate you for your losses. When you file a claim, you have the right to seek compensation for your economic and non-economic damages, including compensation for things like pain, suffering, medical expenses, and more.

There are four elements of a helicopter crash claim that you will need to prove. First, that the defendant against whom you are filing suit – perhaps a pilot, a helicopter tour company, or a part’s manufacturer – owed you a duty of care. Second, the defendant violated the duty of care owed to you via an act of negligence, i.e., failing to exercise the proper level of care owed, such as operating the helicopter while intoxicated. Third, the act of negligence was the direct cause of the accident, and fourth, the accident resulted in tangible and intangible damages.

Investigating the Cause of a Helicopter Crash and Working with an Attorney

A proper investigation into the cause of a helicopter crash must be conducted as soon as possible following the accident. Because of your duty as the plaintiff to prove negligence and causation, this investigation can provide critical evidence useful to your claim.

Conducting a thorough investigation can be challenging to do on one’s own, particularly if you are seriously injured. This is where the help of an experienced Sacramento helicopter crash attorney – like myself – can prove vital. I can aid you in:

  • Preserving wreckage – if the wreckage is moved or destroyed, essential evidence may be lost;
  • Collecting flight logs, records of communication between pilot and other parties, maintenance records, repair records, and more;
  • Investigating the make and model of the helicopter and helicopter parts, as well as any recalls or defects of those parts;
  • Talking to key witnesses, accident reconstruction experts, and forensic experts;
  • Gathering, organizing, and presenting your medical bills and history to establish damages;
  • Valuing other damages, you have suffered, such as the value of your pain and suffering;
  • Ensuring that your claim is filed within the required amount of time;
  • Negotiating with any insurance adjusters or other lawyers involved in the claims process; and
  • Litigating on your behalf if your case goes to court.

I fully realize the severity of your situation and will handle all aspects of the claims and investigative process – or work with experts and other professionals – to ensure your claim’s best outcome.

The Statute of Limitations for Filing a Claim in California

In California, the time limit that you have to file a claim against the at-fault party for your helicopter crash and related injuries, known as the statute of limitations, is two years from the date of injury. This means that if you do not file your claim within two years, you risk forfeiting your right to recover altogether.

While you have two years to take action, I recommend acting immediately; two years is a long time, and if you wait too long, evidence relevant to your case may already be destroyed. As soon as possible, please call me to schedule your free case consultation.

Please note that if you are filing a claim against a public entity, you have only 6 months from the accident date. Please contact an attorney for more information.

You May Have Signed a Waiver

In some cases, you may have been asked to sign a waiver of liability before taking a helicopter ride. For example, if you decided to take a tour in California, the tour company may have insisted that you sign a document before the tour stating that in the event of an accident, you waive your right to file a lawsuit. Please meet with me today if you have signed a waiver such as this, and I will help you understand and explore your legal options.

Sacramento Helicopter Crash Attorney

If you or someone you hold dear has been injured or killed in a helicopter crash, please contact our Sacramento helicopter crash lawyers today at (916) 921-6400 or (800) 404-5400 for free, friendly advice. You can also reach us online here.

Helicopter accidents do not occur often. Still, when they do, we are experienced and skilled at helping victims or their family members recover the damages they deserve.

If you have been harmed due to someone else’s negligence, we genuinely want to help. Give us a call, and let’s go over the details of your case.

We have been practicing personal injury law exclusively since 1982. We’ve helped countless families recover compensation for their personal injuries and wrongful death claims.

We are members of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and the National Association of Distinguished Counsel.

See our past verdicts and settlements and client reviews on AvvoYelp, Google.

Editor’s Note: This page has been updated for accuracy and relevancy [cha 3.3.22]

Photo by Greg Wilson on Unsplash

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