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Helicopter Accident Lawyer

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a report in May of 2013 that announced a shocking detail regarding industrial accidents. The leading cause for industrial accidents for oil and gas workers is not explosions, machinery accidents, or falls. Instead, the main danger in these incidents is helicopter accidents.

Were you injured while being transported to an oil rig?

While oil rig explosions and machinery accidents receive large amounts of media attention, these incidents are not as common as the helicopter accidents that occur when transporting workers to and from the rigs in the middle of the ocean. Helicopter accidents accounted for 49 of 128 fatalities in the years 2003 to 2010. This means that they made up 75% of all transportation related deaths for oil and gas workers. Within this span of time, there were 17 helicopter accidents in the Gulf of Mexico. 11 of the helicopter accidents resulted in at least 1 worker death. 9 of the victims of these crashes survived the actual helicopter accident but later drowned.

The average American worker fatality rate is 3.8 deaths per 100,000 workers. In the oil and gas industry, the rate is 27.1 deaths per 100,000 workers. The majority of these fatalities are because of helicopter accidents. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Study noted that helicopter accidents are the leading cause of energy industry worker deaths, making up 51% of all deaths. Helicopters are commonly called in to transport people and move materials to and from the mainland. The CDC says that the number of active offshore drilling rigs decreased by 63% between 2003 and 2010, but the number of annual fatalities in the industry has remained stable. To reduce fatalities, employers need to ensure that all transportation safety guidelines are closely followed.

The Dangers of Offshore Helicopters

A common way to transport workers to and from offshore drilling rigs is by helicopter. Air travel is much quicker than traveling by boat; because helicopters have good maneuverability, they can easily land on rigs equipped with helicopter pads. While helicopters offer a quick, convenient way to transport offshore workers, there are safety issues to be considered. In fact, a study conducted in 2011 at the Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy reported 178 helicopter crashes between 1983 and 2009 that resulted in in 139 deaths.

The Hopkins study found that mechanical failure was the leading cause of offshore helicopter accidents. The loss of engine power was responsible for almost a third of the crashes that led to fatalities. The study also found that 20% of forced landings due to mechanical problems occurred in the water. The second most common contributor to offshore helicopter crashes was bad weather, which was responsible for 16% of the crashes.

Some of the most common contributors to serious offshore helicopter crashes include the following:

  • Mechanical Failure - Mechanical failure is when a component of the helicopter fails or does not work as it was intended to. A mechanical failure could be caused by a number of things at any point during the helicopter's life. The malfunction could be the result of a defect in the design of the helicopter, faulty manufacturing, poor maintenance and upkeep, improper installation, inadequate operational monitoring, or improper use. An electrical malfunction could also cause a helicopter accident.
  • Bad Weather - Foggy, windy, or rainy weather can also cause a helicopter to crash. Weather over the seas can often be violent and unpredictable. Heavy fog and rain can restrict the pilot's range of sight, while strong winds can make it difficult to guide the helicopter to guide. Strong headwinds and tailwinds are very dangerous conditions to fly in and can cause the pilot to lose control of the aircraft.
  • Pilot Error - Pilot error (sometimes referred to as operational error) is an error in the flight planning, conducting the flight, training or maintenance. This includes errors like not operating the aircraft within its operational limits, flying in unsafe weather conditions, improperly planning the flight, failure to maintain the helicopter, and improper training of flight and maintenance personnel.

Legal Complexities of Offshore Helicopter Accidents

Helicopter accidents are widely used to transport maritime workers. Their maneuverability, speed, and ability to land on small platforms make them the most efficient method of transportation. However, being the most efficient does not necessarily mean the safest as well. In terms of the law, offshore helicopter accidents are particularly complex. In addition to potential challenges in recovering wreckage to be used as evidence, offshore helicopter accidents can potentially fall under several different federal and/or state laws and regulations.

Depending on a variety of factors, the following may be applicable to an offshore helicopter accident:

  • Federal Aviation Regulations
  • Jones Act
  • Death on the High Seas Act
  • State Law

Additionally, helicopter accidents can have a large number of parties that may potentially be liable for the accident. Those parties can include, but may not be limited to the following:

  • Helicopter owner and/or operator
  • Manufacturer
  • Maintenance company
  • Component manufacturer

Hire an Offshore Injury Attorney at Arnold & Itkin LLP

If you have been injured in a helicopter accident, or if you lost a loved one in a helicopter accident, then you need to seek compensation. Talk to a lawyer today for more information about pursuing a case after a helicopter accident. You can also discuss your case with an Arnold & Itkin LLP attorney to learn whether you should seek workers' compensation or a personal injury settlement. Call today to learn more about how we can help you!

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