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Largest Pretrial Settlement in History Awarded to Helicopter Crash Survivor

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.