It’s a rule of thumb that the smaller the vessel passengers utilize for travel, the more likely an accident is to occur. The mechanics of smaller vessels such as helicopters are not meant for traveling long distances, because the risk of failure increases exponentially the longer the craft is in the air. Of any method of air travel, helicopters in particular have one of the highest rates of mechanical failure resulting in fatalities.
Mainly used as a rescue vessel for paramedics (“Life Flight”) or as a way to sightsee overhead, most people will never have to travel in a helicopter, and if they choose to, the trip will be short. However, that’s not a reason to negate safety measures when choosing this mode of transportation. In fact, many helicopter accidents happen just shortly after takeoff and often result in the tragic death of everyone onboard.
These dangerous aircrafts also have the highest fatality rate in air transportation. This fatality rate can be due to several factors: inexperienced pilots, unsuccessfully maneuvering the aircraft to avoid a collision, or the amount of weight on board being too heavy for the craft, causing it to crash.
No matter the reason, helicopter accidents are tragic. Very often there are no survivors and families are left without a loved one. These accidents are far too common, and helicopters should not be a preferred mode of transportation when a safer alternative is available, due to helicopters’ high risk of catastrophic injury and death. However, there are times when a life changing experience arises, such as a tour of New York City or the Grand Canyon from above–where the only mode of transportation is a helicopter tour. It’s most tragic when helicopter accidents occur during these fun, memory making experiences.
After a devastating helicopter accident, it’s important for the victim, or in the case of a tragic and unexpected wrongful death, their surviving family, to retain Board Certified legal counsel as quickly as possible to best ensure they are compensated for what will be a lifelong grieving and recovery process. This article will present the Law Resource Blog’s safety recommendations and what those who have experienced helicopter accidents need to know on the legal side, in order to take the correct steps to physical and financial recovery.
When it comes to riding in a helicopter, many travelers want the experience. Helicopter tours offer some of the most beautiful views one can experience, and for some, the risk is worth it. Should a tourist decide to take the risk of boarding a helicopter to sightsee, there are several important things they must know and several rules they must abide by in order to remain safe at all times while aboard.
- Listen to the pilot! Before takeoff the pilot will brief everyone aboard the helicopter about rules and flight policies specific to the carrier. There will be specific rules about when passengers may enter and exit the aircraft, and when passengers must remain seated. All of these policies are in place for a reason: safety! Ignoring these policies or interrupting the pilot while he or she is explaining important safety measures could put everyone on the aircraft at-risk.
- Do not approach. The only time passengers should attempt to approach the helicopter is after permission is given by the pilot and/or flight crew. Safety tip: always approach a helicopter from the front, so the pilot has a clear view of you and your party. Approaching the front of the aircraft at an angle gives the pilot the best view of what’s around him or her.
- Mind the rotors. Once the rotors are already turning, or have been set in motion to begin turning, always approach the craft with caution. Should passengers need to approach the helicopter when it’s at ground level, they should walk toward the craft at a “low crouch” to allow the most space possible between limbs and rotors. Heeding this safety tip could prevent catastrophic amputation accidents.
- Secure personal belongings. Any personal items such as hats, ties, or loose jewelry should properly secured (or taken off) before approaching a helicopter. Chasing after an item that has blown away could result in serious and life-threatening injuries.
- Put the cigarette out! Never smoke within 50 feet of a helicopter.
The law after loss
After a helicopter tragedy that results in a wrongful death, a family will want to seek out the most qualified, Board Certified, experienced legal counsel available to them. A lawyer should have extensive trial experience not only in wrongful death, but in helicopter accidents. Without this experience, the deceased’s family may not receive the maximum amount of compensation they’re owed.
As a refresher, in The Law After Tragic Loss, we established what constitutes a wrongful death claim:
- The death of a human being
- The death must be caused by the negligence of another OR with intent (to cause harm, to maim or kill); the instance of a helicopter death, the pilot’s lack of experience, alcohol consumption prior to flying the craft, or mental health issues could result in a wrongful death claim if an accident with fatalities occurs.
- Surviving family who suffer financial injury because of the loss
- Appointing of a personal representative for the deceased’s estate. In the event of a sudden, tragic death such as a helicopter accident, it’s important that the decedent’s next of kin are aware of their wishes. Advance directives can provide peace of mind in the event this kind of tragedy occurs.
As we’ve stressed in various articles, after a wrongful death occurs it’s important to act swiftly, because the statute of limitations in the state of Florida is (2) two years from the time of death. If the statute of limitations is exceeded, the case will be dismissed no matter how valid the claim or how catastrophic the loss.
When the case goes to trial, the main aspect of the claim the court will investigate when determining compensation to be awarded are the circumstances surrounding the decedent at the time of his or her death. These circumstances may include some, or all of the following:
- Loss of income: if the victim was unemployed at the time of his or her death, a jury will then consider the deceased’s last available earnings and award based partly upon such information, as well as the potential for future earning lost.
- Loss of a parent: parental guidance is considered when determining compensation.
- If the decedent had dependents at the time of his or her death, their children are factored in, as the deceased was the adult wage earner in the home at the time of death.
An experienced lawyer can recover financial compensation on behalf of a surviving family. Nothing ever replaces the loss of a loved one after tragedy, but monetary compensation can help to reduce stress and funeral expenses incurred due to someone else’s negligence that ultimately resulted in loss of a loved one.