Less than a month after the fatal Atlanta crash, police helicopters were involved in another dangerous accident – this time here in the Los Angeles area. Six people suffered injuries, including five police officers and one civilian.
The helicopter accident happened over the weekend while one copter landed just as the second was taking off. As the first helicopter tried to land, its rotor blades came too close to the other, destroying the tail section and causing other serious damage. Although the crash occurred in wet and rainy weather, it is not clear why the two vehicles crashed into each other.
Of the six injured victims, each helicopter contained two occupants. Two other victims were standing nearby and apparently received injuries from flying debris.
While it will take some time for investigating agencies to determine what went wrong, this crash looks more like operator error was involved. If one of the pilots was responsible for the crash, it is likely that the police department itself or another government entity could be liable to the victims. Under the doctrine of respondeat superior, an employer is generally responsible for harms caused by an employee that happens while the employee is doing his or her job.
One complicating factor might be the coverage of the relevant sovereign immunity exceptions. The traditional rule throughout the United States was that private citizens could not sue the government for injuries. Almost all states and local governments have changed this rule by enacting laws that give citizens permission to sue in specific situations. If this situation is not covered by that law, then the victims might have to look elsewhere to seek compensation for the long-term consequences of these injuries.
Of course, any conclusions about liability will depend on a thorough investigation into why this crash occurred.