What To Do After Your Loved One Is in a Helicopter Crash
June 15, 2023 @ 2:21 pm
Helicopter crashes are more dangerous than just about any other kind of transportation-related accident—including other aviation accidents—simply because of what they are and how they operate. Rotary-blade aircraft offer incredible performance capabilities, but when things go wrong, consequences can be deadly. In best-case scenarios, families are left trying to help their loved one deal with lengthy rehabilitation and potentially life-altering disabilities. For many, however, they’re left to mourn the loss of the person entirely. For most, the assistance of a helicopter crash lawyer can be the difference between having the financial resources needed versus struggling alone.
Why Helicopters Are Dangerous
Helicopters are also called rotary-wing aircraft. Where airplanes—or fixed-wing aircraft—have wings that are affixed to the sides of the fuselage, the contoured blades on a helicopter are its wings, and the torque that makes them spin at high speeds introduces complex forces that mechanical parts must withstand and a pilot must control.
The rotation of the wings creates lift. To create directional movement, the swash plate must tilt so that the blades tilt, and the thrust generated carries the helicopter in the direction of the tilt—forward, backward, sideways or any direction in between.
The torque of the wings can make the fuselage spin in the opposite direction. To counter that torque, many helicopters rely on a vertically-aligned tail rotor. The tail rotor controls which way the tail moves and which way the helicopter faces.
- Any failure or error can result in a crash. Common causes of helicopter crashes include an almost infinite number of possible factors.
- Mechanical or Equipment Failure—With every part key to maintaining the controlled balance needed to control a helicopter’s movement, any weakness or mechanical failure can prove fatal. The types of forces a helicopter generates can cause mechanical fatigue. The expense and difficulty in finding qualified, skilled mechanics to repair and maintain helicopters can be challenging.
- Pilot Error—The constant control necessary to fly a helicopter is demanding of a pilot both physically and mentally. In addition to reading instrumentation accurately, the pilot must coordinate independent controls in each hand as well as foot-operated controls.
- Low-Altitude Operation—Helicopters fly at much lower altitudes than most fixed-wing aircraft do, so they’re subject to more weather like wind or fog, turbulence, hazards like power lines, for example, and obstacles like towers or buildings.
- Frequent Takeoffs and Landings—Helicopters are often used for relatively short distances. With takeoffs and landings being the most dangerous portions of a flight, the frequency of short trips increases the risk of a crash.
- High-Risk Usage—Helicopters are often used where other transportation methods—to include planes—cannot go. Physical terrain and environmental factors are often challenging, space limited and time constraints narrow.
Unfortunately, regardless of cause, the resulting crash often looks the same. Determining the actual cause or causes and whether negligence was involved often requires extensive investigation and painstaking documentation. Meanwhile, the people who were on board are usually struggling with severe injuries or may have even lost their lives. If this could be you or someone you care about, you need to know what to do after a helicopter crash well before it ever happens.
What To Do After a Helicopter Crash—Legal Actions Family Members Should Take
Helicopters are used for so many things, anyone can end up in a crash. While military operations and emergency medical transport are some of the most well-known uses of helicopters, these highly mobile aircraft are employed for everything from monitoring traffic conditions, moving heavy objects, and performing search and rescue missions to transporting workers to and from offshore sites, delivering supplies to remote locations and even offering tourists a panoramic view of resort areas. If a crash happens through negligence or fault, however, family members need to be prepared to take appropriate legal action.
- 1. Contact a helicopter crash lawyer immediately. If a helicopter crashes, something went wrong to cause that crash. However, the parties involved may not be forthcoming with exactly what that cause was and who was responsible. If negligence or fault is involved, you may have grounds for a significant lawsuit. Laws governing personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits vary by state, but in Louisiana, victims have recourse.
- If the person involved in the helicopter crash was injured but is still alive, they may have grounds for a personal injury suit. They may be entitled to full compensation for all losses associated with the crash—for example, medical bills, lost wages, physical pain and suffering, and emotional distress. In extreme cases of negligence, victims may be eligible for punitive damages as well—if, for example, the pilot was operating the aircraft under the influence.
- If the person involved in the helicopter crash died from their injuries and you are an immediate relative, you may be able to file a wrongful death suit. Spouses have first preference followed by children, and a spouse and child can file jointly. Parents, grandparents and siblings of the victim may also be eligible, in that order, to file a suit if none of the relatives listed before them are still living.
Getting the support and advice of a reputable helicopter crash lawyer sooner rather than later can help you avoid mistakes and statements that might jeopardize the validity of your suit.
- 2. Document the incident. In the aftermath of a helicopter crash, every detail matters in being able to piece together what actually happened to cause it. However, time and suggestions from others can affect our mental clarity and memory. Write down every event and detail that you remember as soon as possible. If you are able, take pictures or video. What people might have said, sounds or smells that you noticed, a sequence of events or even a casual remark you may have overheard might have critical importance in the final analysis.
- 3. Document all medical treatment. Traumatic brain injuries, internal injuries, severe burns, spinal cord injuries, broken bones and the loss of limbs all represent injuries typical of a helicopter crash. Often, victims die from the blunt force trauma of impact. However, individuals may survive a crash and numerous injuries only to be pinned in the wreckage or suffer exposure to the elements.
Getting emergency medical attention as soon as possible is essential, and so is ensuring that all injuries are recognized, treated and thoroughly documented. If possible, take pictures of injuries, and maintain records of all medical reports, consultations, diagnostic tests, and medications as well as ongoing or emergent problems associated with crash-related injuries.
What a Helicopter Crash Lawyer Can Do for You
The statute of limitations in Louisiana for filing personal injury lawsuits and wrongful death lawsuits is just one year from the date of the incident. That really isn’t much time for someone trying to recover from the severe injuries associated with a helicopter crash. It isn’t much time for a family reeling from the sudden loss of a loved one either. It isn’t much time at all when you consider how difficult it can be to determine if someone was negligent and to identify exactly who those people might be—especially when they attempt to deny any wrongdoing. A skillful helicopter crash attorney can give you the support you need and answer your questions.
- 1. Representation—Do I have to talk to them?
As your legal representative, your lawyer can handle all communications with the helicopter company’s attorneys, insurance agents and other representatives. Your lawyer will know what to say—and what not to say—while conveying the serious intent of your claim.
- 2. Liability—Who do I sue?
Being able to recognize negligence and identify who is responsible can be difficult. The cause of a crash may be due to one person’s error or a number of people’s errors—the pilot, the helicopter owner, a helicopter leasing company, a maintenance or repair company, the helicopter manufacturer, a component manufacturer or even someone at a landing site, for example, who did something other than what they should have done. Your lawyer will be able to determine the parties at fault and what venues to pursue.
- 3. Proving Your Case—What do I have to do?
Your lawyer will know exactly what is involved in pursuing a personal injury or wrongful death claim and what you have to do to prove negligence. They will be doing all of the procedural tasks that you either can’t do or don’t even know you should do. They will know who to interview and what lines of investigation to pursue to be able to build an effective case. A personal injury attorney experienced in helicopter crashes will know what to look for. What might not seem significant to an attorney who doesn’t normally handle these types of accidents might actually be vital information critical to proving your case.
- 4. Compensation—How much is my claim worth?
Every case is as different as its set of circumstances. An experienced personal injury lawyer will know how to calculate the levels of compensation you’ll actually need to cover all damages—past, present and future. They won’t discount or overlook small details that can have large impacts, and they may be able to negotiate a fair settlement without having to go to court. If you do have to go to court, they’ll be able to guide and represent you throughout the process.
A helicopter crash is a life-altering event. If that kind of trauma touches you or your family, reach out to the experienced helicopter crash attorneys at Morrow, Morrow, Ryan, Bassett & Haik. We can give you the help and support that you need while getting you the compensation that you deserve.