Medical Helicopter Crash & Air Ambulance Accident

medical helicopter air amublance crashes

As a recognized leader in the field of aviation accident law, we have handled some of the worst air disasters in history. Over the years, our firm has earned a reputation for its comprehensive investigations, effective case preparation, and successful resolution of complex aviation accident lawsuits, including those involving every type of medical plane or medical helicopter crash.

At Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman, we handle accidents involving all forms of medical service flights in the U.S. and Mexico from our California offices. Our attorneys are experienced in aviation and air ambulance accident law. Do not wait to call 800-827-0087 to preserve your claims and rights.

Air medical accidents can include police, fire, Life Flight or other air medical services, such as:

  • Medical evacuation airplanes and helicopters (Medevac)
  • Small airplane medical service flights
  • Flying Doctors of Mercy
  • Private ambulance flights (such as OmniFlight services)
  • Chartered flights to the U.S. for medical services
  • Other air ambulance or air medical services

In June 2006, Los Angeles Fire Department paramedics ordered the medical helicopter evacuation of a child that had been critically injured in a car accident. Mid-flight, the helicopter’s tail rotor yoke failed, causing the aircraft to break in two. The medical helicopter crash killed the child and three paramedics. Dedicated to pursuing accountability for the defective design of the helicopter, Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman, P.C. successfully represented the families of the three paramedics who lost their lives in this devastating air ambulance accident.

The Added Danger of an Air Ambulance Accident

When you or a loved one must be transported in an air ambulance, it is expected that the aircraft will arrive safely at the hospital. If you or a loved one have experienced an air ambulance accident involving a medical helicopter or medical transport plane, you know the devastation of being in an accident when a life is already endangered.

Patients that are transported by air ambulance are already facing life-threatening medical conditions. If a malfunction or operational error occurs onboard the air ambulance, the patient will likely suffer more severe injuries, or even death. The pilots, doctors, paramedics, and flight nurses may also be severely or fatally injured. In fact, in 2008, the job of emergency medical service pilot ranked as the most dangerous job in America.

Emergency medical helicopter transport flights have no scheduled flight plans and often involve conditions that make landings and takeoffs difficult considering their close proximity to terrain, busy roads, and heavily populated areas. Additionally, because their operations are extremely urgent, it requires pilots to race against the clock. As a result, in addition to the common causes of helicopter and plane crashes, medical helicopter flights face the following unique dangers:

We always focus our investigation on the causes of a medical helicopter crash as well as understanding the link between the crash and the injury suffered by the patient. If you believe that your loved one suffered more critical injuries as the result of an air-ambulance accident, we will pursue a personal injury claim against the responsible party.

Safety Concerns Raised by Medical Helicopter Crash and Air Ambulance Accident Statistics

Since reimbursement rates for air ambulance expenses are very high, the industry has grown rapidly in the last 15 years, along with the number of air medical transport crashes. During that time, there has also been a marked increase in for-profit air ambulances, which has raised safety concerns. Since there are no stipulations for Medicare reimbursements on such flights, using cheaper and older helicopters, cutting maintenance costs, and skimping on crew training, can bring in a good deal of money. In an already difficult profession, corporate greed can yield deadly results as companies cut corners, strain safety procedures, and overwork their crews in order to increase profits.

Any air ambulance accident potentially involves dozens of people and companies. Aside from the accident victims, the crash will always require an investigation into the flight crew, the helicopter or plane manufacturer, aircraft component manufacturers, maintenance companies, the owners of the aircraft, hospitals, police, fire departments, paramedics, government or private air traffic controller facilities, and more. As a result, these cases typically lead to extremely complex litigation requiring the assistance of experienced attorneys.

Please contact Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman for more information about your rights and options after an air ambulance accident or medical helicopter crash.

Helicopter Ambulance Deaths

All too often, the helicopters that are meant to save people’s lives put them at risk.

According to the NTSB, from 1990 through 2015 there were 81 fatal medical helicopter accidents, resulting in 217 deaths. The highest number of deaths occurred in 2008, with 28 fatalities. Factoring in non-fatal crashes, there were 220 accidents during the same period, and from 1999 through 2008 there were at least 10 medical helicopter crashes each year.

A 2009 presentation from the NTSB noted that from 1998 through 2008, 49 percent of medical helicopter crashes happened at night. The main crash causes were:

  • Human error, including weather-related issues and collisions with objects (77 percent)
  • Mechanical (17 percent)
  • Other or Undetermined (5 percent)

Although weather-related accidents only made up 19 percent of all crashes, 56 percent of the weather-related accidents were fatal.

Among the factors that make medical helicopters less safe—in addition to the dangerous takeoffs and landings, and flying at lower altitudes—is the lack of fire-resistant fuel tanks. Fire-resistant fuel tanks can buy the people on a helicopter precious seconds to escape from a helicopter crash before it catches fire. Not all helicopters have such a system.

Pilots are required to fly in stressful situations, and their decisions make the difference between a patient’s life and death. This puts pressure on pilots to operate in unsafe circumstances as they feel a duty to help patients in need.

Demonstrated Experience in Medical Helicopter Crash and Medical Plane Crash Litigation

Mexico Flying Doctors of Mercy Plane Crash– Baum Hedlund represented a doctor (a member of the Flying Doctors of Mercy) who was severely injured in a Mooney M20E crash in Sinaloa, Mexico, on November 2, 1991. Baum Hedlund successfully resolved the personal injury lawsuit in the doctor’s favor.

Colorado Medical Evacuation Helicopter Crash – Baum Hedlund successfully represented a paramedic injured in an Air Methods Bell 206L3 medical helicopter crash in Bayfield, Colorado, on September 2, 1992. The medical helicopter crash occurred while attempting to evacuate an injured hiker.

California Flying Doctors of Mercy Plane Crash – Baum Hedlund successfully represented the family of a surgeon (a member of the Flying Doctors of Mercy) who was killed in a crash in a remote Camp Pendleton canyon in California, on March 4, 1995. Read more about this plane crash.

Arizona Guardian Air Transport Medical Plane Crash – In 1996, Baum Hedlund successfully handled a Beech E-90 Guardian Air Transport medical plane crash in Flagstaff, Arizona. The pilot was on his way to pick up a patient in Phoenix when the air ambulance accident occurred. The plane was registered to Flagstaff Medical Center in Arizona, doing business as Guardian Air Transport. The pilot had logged over 10,000 incident free miles since joining Guardian Air in 1992.

Los Angeles Fire Department Medical Rescue Helicopter Crash – In June 2006, Baum Hedlund successfully represented the families of three Los Angeles Fire Department paramedics who were killed in a medical helicopter crash. This was a products liability trial against Bell Helicopter for a tail rotor failure. Our firm also changed aviation product liability law in an earlier Appeals Court decision stemming from this case.

Attorney Cara J. Luther, of Baum Hedlund, discusses the accident with ABC 2 News

Maryland State Police Medevac Crash – Baum Hedlund successfully represented the mother of the only passenger killed when a Maryland State Police medevac Aerospatiale (Eurocopter) crashed near Andrews Air Force Base in September 2008. In that medical helicopter crash, the pilot of the helicopter failed to adhere to instrument approach procedures when he descended below the minimum descent altitude (MDA). The crash sparked the 2009 Federal Aviation Administration mandate that by 2011, Collision-Warning Devices be installed on all medical helicopters.

Oklahoma EagleMed Medical Helicopter Crash – We currently represent the pilot’s family in a products liability lawsuit filed against the manufactures of the engine and related systems that were installed on the Eurocopter AS350 B2 medical helicopter, which crashed in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma in 2013. The helicopter, operated by EagleMed LLC of Wichita Kansas, crashed in the parking lot of St. Ann’s Retirement Home.

Tennessee Medevac Helicopter Crash – A Hospital Wing Eurocopter AS350 B3 medevac helicopter crashed in Somerville, Tennessee in 2013. Our firm successfully represented the family of the flight nurse and resolved the case in their favor in 2014.

California SkyLife Medical Helicopter Crash – Baum Hedlund has filed a lawsuit on behalf of the mother and father of a substitute teacher who was killed in a 2015 medical helicopter crash. The wrongful death lawsuit alleges Fresno-based Rogers Helicopters Inc. was negligent in the operation and maintenance of the medical helicopter known as SkyLife 4 (N408FC).

For immediate assistance, or to schedule an initial consultation or case evaluation with an aviation lawyer experienced in air ambulance accident cases, please contact Baum Hedlund, P.C.