By: Allan M. Siegel
A former flight nurse from Colorado who survived a devastating helicopter
ambulance crash will receive what it believed to be the largest pretrial
settlement in U.S. history for an individual personal injury claim. According
to lawyers, the 47-year-old victim will receive a $100 million cash settlement
from the helicopter manufacturer and operator.
The largest settlement on record stems from a 2015 incident in which a
helicopter ambulance crashed while taking off from a medical center in
a mountain town 70 miles west of Denver, Colorado. The pilot of the ambulance
was killed in the crash, another flight nurse injured, and the plaintiff
in this case suffered severe burns to more than 90% of his body.
After not being expected to survive the first 24 hours after the crash,
the victim spent nearly a year in the ICU for burn victims, and endured
hundreds of surgeries and medical procedures to treat burns that at some
places extended to the bone. He has suffered severe disfigurement, permanent
hearing loss, the loss of function of his hands, and has had to relearn
how to walk, talk, eat, and manage the daily tasks of life.
In the lawsuit, the victim and his lawyers alleged that the manufacturer
of the helicopter, a French company, failed to outfit the aircraft with
a crash-resistant fuel system, which caused its fuel tank to explode into
flames on impact. They also cited findings from the U.S. government that
roughly 85% of domestically registered helicopters made after 1994 did
not have crash-resistant fuel systems. The suit further claimed that the
helicopters tail rotor system was flawed, and that mechanics employed
by the Colorado-based operator failed in taking reasonable measures to
adequately inspect, maintain, and repair the aircraft.
The significant settlement will provide the victim with compensation needed
to cover his extensive damages, including his tremendous pain and suffering
and the costs of his exorbitant past and future medical bills. According
to the victim’s attorney, some of the settlement proceeds will also
be used to create a private foundation that promotes emergency medical
flight safety and support efforts for burn survivors.