Helicopter Accident at Sea

A helicopter accident can be catastrophic for a victim, often resulting in critical injuries or death. The physical and emotional toll can be immense, including severe trauma, long-term disability, or chronic pain. A helicopter accident lawyer can guide a victim through the process of suing those responsible for the incident and can fight hard on the victim’s behalf to obtain the most possible compensation and justice.

In this piece, BoatLaw, LLP will explain important information about helicopter accidents at sea, such as their types and causes, legal options for victims, potential financial compensation, and the role of a lawyer in these cases.

Helicopter Accident at Sea Attorneys

Pilots receive years of training, but even decades of experience can mean nothing in the face of severe weather or poor luck.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a basket transfer accident, then you need to contact a lawyer immediately. The attorneys at BoatLaw, LLP are experts in maritime law, and are ready to provide the legal assistance you need to get the financial compensation that you deserve.

Call 1 (800) 262-8529 to secure an initial consultation. We litigate maritime cases across the country from our offices in Washington, Oregon, and California. Do not settle for less than what your case is worth.

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Sea-Based Helicopters

Helicopters designed for use at sea are tailored for challenging marine environments. They often feature corrosion-resistant materials to withstand saltwater exposure and are equipped with floats or other emergency landing gear for water landings. These helicopters are essential for maritime operations, including search and rescue missions, offshore oil and gas industry support, and naval operations.

They provide a link between land and vessels or platforms at sea, offering quick transportation and evacuation capabilities. Their ability to hover and perform quick maneuvers is particularly beneficial for rescues in rough sea conditions, making them essential in maritime safety and operations.

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Reasons Behind Helicopter Accidents

  1. Challenging Takeoffs and Landings: Helicopters often crash during takeoff or landing on ships or oil rigs. This can be due to mechanical failures or the complexities of navigating in poor weather conditions.
  2. Difficult Conditions on Deck: Landing on a moving ship deck is particularly challenging, especially in strong winds or rough seas, making accidents more likely.
  3. Mechanical Failures: Issues with helicopter mechanics during flight are a major concern. Critical failures can force a pilot to attempt an emergency landing or, in worse cases, lead to a crash.
  4. Regular Maintenance: To prevent accidents, it’s crucial that helicopters undergo frequent and thorough inspections and repairs to ensure all parts are functioning properly.
  5. Adverse Weather: Strong winds, storms, and thick fog greatly increase the risks of flying. These conditions can impair visibility and make it difficult for even skilled pilots to navigate and control the helicopter.

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Helicopter Crashes: Victims

The victims of helicopter accidents at sea typically include a variety of individuals. Pilots, given their direct involvement in operating the helicopter, are often victims. Passengers, who could be workers traveling to offshore platforms or guests on a cruise, also face risks. Maintenance personnel and ground crew can be victims, especially during takeoff or landing accidents. In certain cases, bystanders on ships or platforms may also be affected by these accidents.

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Common Crash Locations

In the United States, helicopter accidents occur near states with significant offshore activities. In Washington, they might happen near coastal areas with a concentration of maritime industries. California sees these accidents typically near its coastline, which hosts a range of offshore operations. Oregon, with its rugged coast and maritime activities, is another location for accidents.

Alaska, known for its remote and challenging environment, often witnesses helicopter accidents near its coastline, where transportation relies heavily on helicopters because of remote areas. These states, surrounded by ocean waters, are areas where helicopter accidents at sea are likely to happen because of the frequency of maritime and offshore activities.

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Liable Parties for Helicopter Crashes

First, the helicopter operator or company could be liable. This is because it’s their job to make sure the helicopter is safe to fly and that all the safety rules are followed. If they didn’t do their job properly, like skipping maintenance checks or not training their pilots well, they could be held responsible for the accident.

The pilot of the helicopter might also be liable if their mistake caused the accident. This includes flying in bad weather when they shouldn’t have, not following the flight plan, or making errors while flying. Basically, if the pilot didn’t fly the helicopter safely or made a bad decision, they could be at fault.

The manufacturer of the helicopter or its parts could be liable too. If the accident happened because something on the helicopter was defective or broke down, the company that made the helicopter or that part might be responsible. This means if there was a flaw in how the helicopter was designed or made, the manufacturer could be held accountable for any harm caused.

Lastly, if the accident happened during a service provided by another company, like an oil company using the helicopter to transport workers, that company might also share some responsibility. They have a duty to make sure the services they hire, including helicopter flights, are safe for everyone involved.

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Legal Options After a Helicopter Accident

Following a helicopter accident, victims have several legal options under federal law. The Jones Act is significant for maritime employees. It allows them to file negligence claims against their employer if they believe the accident was caused by a lack of safety measures or negligence.

For those looking at the condition of the helicopter or related equipment, unseaworthiness claims can be pursued. This route holds the owner of the vessel or aircraft responsible if it is found to be unsafe or not fit for its intended use. Unlike negligence claims, unseaworthiness doesn’t require proving negligence but focuses on the state of the equipment.

When a non-employee victim is involved in a helicopter accident related to maritime activities, they can bring a general maritime personal injury claim. The victim must show that the responsible party’s actions or the equipment’s malfunction directly led to the accident and their injuries.

The Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA) provides another legal path, specifically when deaths occur in international waters or a significant distance from U.S. shores. This act allows the family members of the deceased to seek compensation. It covers not just employees but also passengers and other individuals.

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Helicopter Accidents and the Jones Act

Under the Jones Act and general maritime laws, employees who suffer injuries because of their employer’s negligence or because of unseaworthiness can seek compensation for lost wages, medical expenses, pain and suffering, and loss of future earning capacity. Additionally, maritime laws provide for maintenance and cure claims, ensuring that injured maritime workers receive medical care and a daily living allowance until they’re fit for duty.

Wrongful death claims under the Jones Act allow families of deceased maritime employees to recover damages for their loss too. These can include the deceased’s lost future earnings, pre-death pain and suffering, and loss of companionship. DOHSA allows family members to seek compensation for their financial losses because of the death, like lost financial support and funeral expenses. However, the damages tend to be more limited than those allowed under Jones Act.

If a non-employee passenger is injured in a helicopter accident, they can claim damages for medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. This means they can get compensation for their treatment costs, money they didn’t earn while recovering, and the physical and emotional stress caused by the accident.

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Helicopter Accidents: First Steps

  1. Seek Medical Attention: First and foremost, attend to any injuries by getting medical help immediately.
  2. Report the Accident: Notify your supervisor or the shipowner about the accident as soon as you can.
  3. Document the Scene: Take the time to document the accident scene and collect contact information from any witnesses.
  4. Keep Medical Records: Preserve all medical records and receipts connected to the injury. These documents are crucial for any potential legal claims.

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Role of a Helicopter Accident Lawyer

A helicopter accident lawyer can evaluate the accident and identify the appropriate maritime laws that apply, like the Jones Act and the Death on the High Seas Act. The lawyer can help in filing claims and negotiating with insurance companies or other parties involved. They work to ensure the victim receives fair compensation for damages like medical costs, lost wages, and pain and suffering. In cases of wrongful death, they assist the family in pursuing claims. Moreover, if the case goes to court, the lawyer represents the victim’s interests, handling legal procedures and advocating on their behalf.

For maritime employees injured or killed due to negligence under the Jones Act, the law allows a period of three years from the injury date to file a claim. The same timeframe applies to claims of unseaworthiness under general maritime law and DOHSA wrongful death claims.

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Additional Resources

Offshore Helicopter Operations – FAA

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) outlines special practices, techniques, and procedures for helicopter operations in the offshore environment, addressing the unique challenges of oil and gas exploration and production facilities. This guide covers everything from passenger management on heliports to operational procedures for minimizing risks during crane, tanker, and helideck operations. It is an important resource for pilots and operators aiming to improve safety in offshore aviation activities.

Aviation Investigation Search – NTSB

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) provides a database for civil aviation accidents and selected incidents that happened from 1962 to the present in the United States and its territories, as well as international waters. It includes cases where the NTSB was involved in foreign investigations. This resource is valuable for researching historical aviation accident data and understanding the circumstances and safety outcomes of past incidents.

Deadly Military Helicopter Crash Among Many Aviation Disasters in Southern California – USA Today

This USA Today article discusses a series of aviation disasters in Southern California, including a tragic military helicopter crash that resulted in the deaths of five Marines. The region, known for its high military and small aircraft traffic, has witnessed numerous accidents over the years. The piece highlights the risks of flying in a busy airspace, which can increase the likelihood of accidents.

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Hire a Helicopter Accident Civil Suit Attorney

Contact us today to champion your cause and navigate the complexities of maritime claims, ensuring that your rights are fiercely protected and your future is secured.

Call 1 (800) 262-8529 to secure an initial consultation.

We litigate maritime cases across the country from our offices in Alaska, Washington, Oregon, and California. We handle cases that occur in the Pacific Ocean, Bering Sea, Coos Bay, The Columbia River, Grays Harbor, Port Angeles, Lake Tahoe, Dutch Harbor, and the Gulf of Alaska.

Do not settle for less than what your case is worth.

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