Emergency Rescue EMS Airplane & Helicopter Accident Lawyers
We Confront an Industry That Often Puts Profits Above Safety
Kreindler & Kreindler has vast aviation accident experience investigating and litigating cases involving emergency medical services (EMS), Medvac, air ambulance, fixed-wing airplane, and helicopter EMS accidents. These cases present difficult challenges - most crashes have more than one cause and more than one responsible party. Multiple plaintiffs and third-party actions can make EMS plane crash cases even more complicated.
The air ambulance industry is largely populated by private, for-profit companies operating on narrow profit margins and has not properly invested in safety measures.
Not all victims of EMS crashes have the same legal options. Generally, there are two types of cases in an EMS crash - passenger cases or crew cases. The family of a passenger killed in an air ambulance accident has a uniquely strong case. The passenger is a victim who can’t have contributed to the crash, and the law favors his or her family’s claim. Operating companies that employ EMS flight crews and their families are protected by workers’ compensation laws in most jurisdictions. Unfortunately, the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) industry is wrought with safety issues that all too often put profit over safety.
For more legal insight into EMS airplane and helicopter crash litigation, read the attorney article by Kreindler partner and licensed commercial pilot Justin Green, When Rescue is Too Risky.
An Exemplar Kreindler Case: Cessna Citation II 550 Medical Flight, Lake Michigan
Partners Brian Alexander, Justin Green and Dan Rose worked the tragic case involving the deaths of four members of a medical team and two pilots when their Cessna Citation II 550 medical flight crashed shortly after takeoff in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The team was rushing to the University of Michigan Medical Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan to perform a lung transplant on a patient that was already in the OR being prepped for the transplant. The plane plunged into Lake Michigan a few minutes after takeoff. Kreindler successfully resolved this medevac case on behalf of the families, after determining that the primary cause of the crash was serious piloting errors by the flight crew. In addition to reconstructing the accident flight and dissecting the pilot actions in the cockpit, our investigation scrutinized the training and hiring practices of the operator and found them lacking.
Hazardous medevac flights too often endanger the lives they were dispatched to save.
Partner Dan Rose is also representing the families of two LifeFlight nurses who died as a result of the crash of the fixed-wing on-demand air ambulance flight.
Unique Hazards of EMS Helicopter and Fixed-wing Flights
Many factors contribute to high EMS accident rates including the flight environment, pilot training, judgment and experience, condition of the aircraft, economic pressures, and a lack of government oversight. Many times EMS helicopters are flying at night or in bad weather.
Emergency Rescue Aircraft Crash Investigation and Discovery
Several issues must be investigated thoroughly when litigating Emergency Medical Services aircraft accidents:
- Cases where it appears the pilot is responsible for a crash, but a thorough investigation can show that accidents attributed to pilot error were in fact the result of a mechanical failure.
- If the accident happened at a hospital landing zone, issues with the zone could make the hospital liable.
- If the patient didn’t require air transportation, but the hospital requested it, the hospital might be liable.
- Financial records of the EMS operator will reveal how much they spend on safety and flight training.
- Flight mission records will show the crew’s flight experience, validity of missions, and history of whether unnecessary missions were pushed.
- Reviewing the operator’s training records and correspondence between the operator and the FAA could uncover any shortcomings on the operator’s part.
- Aircraft records will reveal if the aircraft was properly equipped, show maintenance records, and could include any relevant historical defects that weren’t corrected.
- The accident or incident history of an operator is important to review as what can appear to be relatively minor accidents and difficulties can become important evidence.
- The pilot’s logbooks and training records will show a pilot’s experience, qualifications, training, and flight time.
Crashes usually have more than one cause, and a thorough investigation will often reveal more than one responsible party.
When a plaintiff lawyer scrutinizes all the available information surrounding an accident from every angle, they are most able to resolve an EMS aircraft crash case successfully. Winning a lawsuit on behalf of air-ambulance disaster victims and holding those responsible liable sends a strong message to the EMS industry.
Included in our emergency aircraft exemplar accident case list are:
- Tri-State CareFlight Durango, CO
- Cessna Citation II 550 Medical Flight, Lake Michigan
We Have the Will and Experience to Win Air Ambulance Crash Cases
Kreindler’s will to win drives every EMS aviation crash case we prosecute. We are exhaustive in our approach to case preparation, work tirelessly to investigate and uncover the truth, and we are relentless in our pursuit of justice.
EMS flights are considered to be one of the most dangerous types of flying mostly because flights often occur at night and in poor weather conditions.
As a result of our investigation, Kreindler proposed several important safety recommendations to the FAA in the hopes of preventing future EMS flight accidents. The recommendations included:
- Require that all Part 135* operators (*Federal Aviation Regulations related to smaller aircraft) incorporate upset recovery training and checklists and procedures into their training.
- Conduct a thorough review of the oversight provided to the operator to determine why the system failed to detect and correct the operational deficiencies.
- Notify the assigned FAA principal operations inspectors of specific adverse financial events as financial distress leads to cutting corners. Inspectors should provide more oversight of operators in financial distress.
- Asking the American Hospital Association to inform its members of the FAA’s role in aviation safety regarding EMS flight services and provide FAA contact information.
- Urging American Hospital Association members to communicate any safety concerns related to EMS flight services to the FAA.
EMS Aviation Accident Insight and Knowledge
Kreindler attorneys regularly author articles explaining legal issues surrounding aviation accident law and precedent-setting cases.
EMS aviation is some of the most dangerous nonmilitary flying in the United States.
In addition to being a prolific author of aviation law articles, partner Justin Green is one of the annual editors of the preeminent publication on the subject, Aviation Accident Law (Kreindler, Lexis/Nexis).
Emergency Rescue Ambulatory Aircraft Accidents Demand Experience
In addition to the aircraft, hospital, operator, and pilot issues that can present challenges in the successful litigation of medevac aircraft cases there are also a number of legal obstacles including the 1994 General Aviation Revitalization Act (GARA). GARA, which could apply to ambulatory airplane crash cases if the aircraft is more than 18 years old. While GARA is not insurmountable, it is in the public interest to hold manufacturers responsible for dangerous products and bring to light any misrepresentations that a manufacturer made to the FAA.