Air ambulances are a category of specially designed emergency transport aircraft requested during rescue operations where traveling by road may not be an option or a higher risk for the victim. Medical transport planes can travel at faster rates than cars and are a safer method of transportation, which can be crucial in saving patients’ lives.
Even though medical helicopters do not crash often, a malfunction or improper operation of a medical transport plane can lead to severe injuries and even death for the victim and medical workers aboard the aircraft. In a 2008 study regarding the most dangerous jobs in the country, medical service pilots ranked number one.
Our attorneys at Wilshire Law Firm are recognized leaders in aviation accident law and have successfully resolved some of the most notorious airplane accidents cases in the world. Our aviation attorneys are highly reputable for their ability to conduct thorough investigations and successfully navigate the complexities of aviation accident cases, including all types of air ambulance crashes.
Types of Air Ambulance Crashes
- Air Ambulance accidents can include police, fire, Life Flight, or any medical services like:
- Chartered flights to the U.S. for medical services
- Flying Doctors of Mercy
- Medical evaluation airplanes and helicopters (Medevac)
- Private ambulance flights (including OmniFlight Services)
- Small airplane medical service flights
Causes of Air Ambulance Crashes
Air ambulances operate under a non-fixed schedule, and medical service pilots are often required to make landings and takeoffs from rugged terrain, busy roads, and unpopulated areas. In addition, since medevac aircraft typically deploy during life-threatening events, pilots are forced to work in urgent and stressful situations. These factors can increase pilots’ probability of improperly operating their aircraft as they seek to aid victims on board.
- The leading causes for air ambulance crashes can include the following:
- Adverse weather conditions
- Air traffic control negligence
- Defective design and manufacturing of the airplane
- Helicopter pad operator negligence
- Lack of fire-resistant fuel tanks
- Negligent maintenance of the airplane
- Pilot error
- Police/paramedic errors
At Wilshire Law Firm, our aviation attorneys conduct thorough investigations into the causes of a medical helicopter crash and focus on the links between the accident and the injuries sustained by a victim. If you or a loved one have sustained more severe injuries after an air ambulance crash, call us today to protect your legal rights and seek justice from the responsible party.
Safety Concerns Raised by Air Ambulance Crashes
Air ambulance reimbursements are very high, which has created an incentive for private air ambulance services. As a result, the for-profit air ambulance industry has seen an exponential increase for the past 15 years, which has raised serious safety concerns. Since Medicaid does not have any provisions regarding the reimbursement of air ambulance flights, privately owned medical transport companies have relied on old and cheap helicopters with low maintenance costs and minimal pilot training to make higher profits.
Air ambulance accidents are very complex because they involve numerous people and companies. These accidents require lengthy investigations into several factors such as pilot error, defective airplane design and aircraft components, improper maintenance, police, fire departments, medical workers, air traffic controllers, and bad weather, to name a few. As a result, experienced aviation attorneys are required to navigate through the complexities surrounding air ambulance accidents effectively and successfully litigate against the responsible party.
Statistics for Air Ambulance Crashes
Facing life-threatening circumstances can be difficult for even the most experienced flyers, but when an air ambulance that is supposed to be tasked with saving our lives crashes, it becomes an even more harrowing experience.
Data from the National Transportation Safety Board says that between the years 1998 through 2015, there were 81 fatal medical helicopter accidents with 217 deaths reported. The year 2008 was the most catastrophic, with 28 deaths alone. Regarding non-fatal crashes, the NSTB reported 220 casualties during the same period, with an average of 10 accidents each year.
In a presentation conducted by the NSTB in 2009, they demonstrated that between the years 1998 through 2008, 49 percent of air ambulance accidents occurred at night. They listed the leading causes as followed:
- Flight crew error from weather-related problems and collision with objects (77%)
- Mechanical malfunctions (17%)
- Unknown factors (5%)
Despite weather-related crashes accounting for only 19% of accidents, 56% of them resulted in a death.
Case Studies: Air Ambulance Crashes Handled by Our Attorneys
Los Angeles Fire Department Medical Rescue Helicopter Crash: In June of 2006, Senior Partner Ilyas Akbari was on the trial team, representing the family of three Los Angeles Fire Department Paramedics that died in an air ambulance accident. They argued that the accident occurred because of a failure in the tail rotor yoke of the Bell Helicopter. The case settled after the third week of trial.
Maryland State Police Medevac Crash: InSeptember of 2008,a Maryland State Police medevac Aerospatiale (Eurocopter) aircraft crashed near Andrews Air Force Base, killing the only passenger on board. Lawyers from our firm successfully represented the victim’s mother. They filed a lawsuit in which they argued that the medical helicopter crashed because the pilot failed to follow through with safe landing procedures as the aircraft descended below the minimum descent altitude (MDA). The accident led to a 2009 mandate by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), in which all medical helicopters were required to install Collision-Warning Devices by the year 2011.
Tennessee Medevac Helicopter Crash: In 2013, a hospital Wing Eurocopter AS350 B3 medevac helicopter crashed in Somerville, Tennessee. Lawyers from our firm successfully represented the family of the flight nurse and reached a favorable settlement on their behalf.
At Wilshire Law Firm, we count on the expertise of recognized leaders in aviation accident law. We represent accidents involving all types of medical service flights in the United States and Mexico. Our legal team is available 24/7 to protect your claims and reach a successful settlement on your behalf. Call us today at 800-522-7274 for immediate assistance.