Helicopters are used across a wide variety of industries, from holiday sightseeing on a chartered flight to emergency evacuations after a disaster. With helicopter use increasing every year, the accident rate has increased steadily as well—and when a helicopter crashes, those on board almost always suffer life-threatening injuries.
Factors That Often Lead to Helicopter Accidents
No matter whether a helicopter is used for private transportation, military maneuvers, traffic news, air ambulance, or transportation to an offshore location, each flight will require a competent pilot and a capable aircraft. If the helicopter does not arrive at its destination safely, victims and loved ones have a right to seek compensation for the costs of medical bills, lost income, and wrongful death.
Some common factors that contribute to helicopter accidents include:
- Manufacturer defects. All aircraft have to be designed and constructed in a way that ensures pilot and passenger safety. However, some helicopters are made with cheap or untested materials, while others are flawed before their construction even begins. When this happens, helicopter designers and manufacturers can be held liable in a product liability claim.
- Component failure. Even if a helicopter is designed and assembled without defects, the craft relies on many component parts and systems working together. Any part that is replaced, installed, or fitted on the aircraft has the potential to fail, putting occupants at risk during flight. Common malfunctioning helicopter components include electrical systems, seat belts and safety harnesses, and rotor systems.
- Pilot error. The vast majority of helicopter accidents involve some form of pilot error. This can include loss of aircraft control, improper training, failure to recognize a potential crash situation, or flying while intoxicated, distracted, or overtired. Pilots may also place profits over safety, agreeing to take on passengers despite adverse weather conditions.
- Poor maintenance. Helicopters are highly sophisticated pieces of machinery, and their repair and maintenance require special skills. Unfortunately, owners may attempt to cut costs by outsourcing their maintenance to mechanics who do not have experience or knowledge of certain types of aircraft. After a crash occurs, an injury attorney can determine who is liable for quality control, regular maintenance, and routine inspections—and whether an unsafe or untested craft was placed in service.
- Air traffic control negligence. Air traffic controllers are vital to helicopter operations, and they need to stay in constant contact and provide necessary and reliable information to pilots. If an air traffic controller provided outdated or incorrect weather information to a pilot, was not properly trained on ground-based radar guides, or failed to provide a pilot with relevant details before or during the flight, he or she may be named in an injury lawsuit. Other land-based parties, such as the helicopter pad owner or operator, owner of the airfield, or control tower operator, could also share liability.
- Obstructions. Helicopter rotors striking an object account for a startlingly high number of crashes. The helicopter blades may make contact with trees, radio and cell phone towers, and even mountains or buildings. A helicopter that flies too close to a power line, telephone wire, or cable risks entanglement with rotors that can cause the craft to land suddenly in an unsuitable location. Entanglement crashes can occur even when weather conditions are clear, and are likely to involve pilot negligence.
- U.S. government or contractor negligence. Military helicopters often differ from charter flights in their construction and operation. Medical helicopters, relief vehicles, and military helicopters used for evacuation or fast deployment of staff may be used in dangerous areas or for “doors-off” flights, increasing the risks of an accident. To make matters worse, the government will want to perform its own internal investigation after a military helicopter crash, making it more difficult for victims and their families to identify the true cause of the accident.
If you or someone you love was injured in a helicopter crash, we can conduct a thorough investigation to determine who is responsible for your suffering—and we do not collect any legal fees unless we secure you the compensation you deserve. Simply fill out the short contact form on this page to set up your no-cost injury consultation, or learn more about your rights in our free guide, The 10 Worst Mistakes You Can Make With Your Tennessee Injury Case.