Questions & Answers


A helicopter accident is a tragic event for all involved. It puts people into positions which they never imagined and presents circumstances never contemplated. In addition to the decisions which need to be made on the personal side, there are legal issues as well. One of the major decisions that has to be made is whether to engage legal counsel to investigate and perhaps litigate the helicopter accident itself.

Your family attorney is the place to start. He or she knows you better than any aviation attorney knows you, and will be invaluable in helping you decide whether to retain an aviation attorney and, if so, which one. This is a very important decision since you will only have one opportunity to bring a lawsuit arising out of the helicopter accident, and your association with that lawyer and law firm may last for years.

There are a number of factors to consider when choosing the right aviation lawyer and law firm, including educational background, aviation experience, legal experience, and results. As important as those factors are, there is another which in equally important: make sure you are comfortable with the person and the law firm you are contemplating retaining. Personality, access, and willingness to communicate are all vital to a successful attorney-client relationship.

Here are some of the questions we have found to be asked most frequently:

1. Why do I need an aviation attorney?

Simply stated, you might NOT need an aviation attorney. It may well be that the case could be settled without the need for an attorney experienced in aviation accidents. But chances are whoever is responsible will not provide prompt and fair compensation. You will need someone to advise you as to the adequacy of any proposed settlement, and generally that means someone who handles aviation accidents as a major part of his or her practice. Even if you do not proceed to litigation, hiring an aviation attorney on an hourly basis to review what is being offered and to advise you on the settlement is money well spent, and could protect you from making a decision which you might regret later.

2. How Much Will It Cost for Me to Hire an Aviation Attorney? No one should be afraid to contact an aviation attorney because of expense.

Generally, aviation attorneys will discuss your case with you without charge.

Most aviation attorneys that represent the victims of helicopter accidents work on a contingency fee basis instead of on an hourly fee basis. They charge a percentage of the recovery as part of the fee. This fee is variable depending on many factors, including the type of case, the difficulty, etc.

3. Is the Fee Negotiable?

It should be, and you should beware of attorneys and firms that will not explore with you all aspects of the fee that is to be charged. In
some cases, an hourly fee is better for the client. In other cases, a sliding scale fee would be appropriate—for example, 20% if settled before suit, 25% is settled after commencing suit, 30% if discovery is initiated, and 33% if tried.

4. Why Do I Need An Attorney to Investigate This Accident? Doesn’t the National Transportation Safety Board and/or the Federal Aviation Administration investigate the accident?

The NTSB and the FAA both investigate aircraft accidents, with the NTSB having primary responsibility. Generally, these organizations do a good job, but occasionally something is overlooked or missed, or doesn't go far enough because of time, budget and personnel constraints. It can be over a year before the NTSB publishes its Factual Report and even longer before it announces its “Probable Cause.” That is too long to wait before beginning one’s own investigation.

We take the government’s investigations and go further to determine what actually occurred. We hire technical experts— people knowledgeable about piloting, maintenance, engineering, aircraft design, materials, metallurgy, weather, air traffic control, operations, fuel and avionics—whatever we need to fully explore and analyze all potential causes of an accident. We need to know what really happened so we can provide the best possible representation.

5. My child was serving in the military and lost his life in an aircraft accident in the which did not involve combat. What are my rights?

Product liability suits involving military equipment can be very difficult. Several U.S. Supreme Court decisions involving service members’ injuries have greatly restricted service members’ or his/her family’s ability to bring suit, to recover, or even to find out what really happened. In our view, this repeats the tragedy, and these laws need to be changed.

We have been successful in representing military families despite these judge-made obstacles. We have developed a high experience level in the prosecution of these cases, but the potential success of any case, especially in this area, turns on the facts of a particular accident.

We welcome the chance to review these cases with the military families and to be of assistance in these matters. We welcome the opportunity to help— we are veterans and we appreciate the sacrifices service members make. This is our chance to say “thank you.”

6. How long will it take for my case to be resolved?

Some cases are resolved within months, while others take years. We work hard to make sure that we do everything within our power to get to a successful conclusion at the earliest possible moment. We understand that litigation is not easy for families, and we try to eliminate the burdens as best we can. But we know that the best way is to get the matter resolved quickly and successfully.

Our experience, our knowledge, and our energy help us expedite the process. We have a good reputation for hard work and tenacious representation. Our opponents know that we mean business, and that we will provide the best possible representation for our clients.

7. When do I need to hire an attorney - don’t I have to hire someone right away?

You should take your time and select the right attorney for you and your family. The sooner the better so that the attorney can act for you to see that evidence is preserved and to help you through the process. There is no immediate need, however, to hire an aviation litigation attorney. Be mindful of statutes of limitation and other procedural rules which could limit or bar your lawsuit or administrative claims.  You should check on which laws and rules might apply to your particular case.

8. Aren’t I better served by a larger firm?

Maybe not. The main thing is to pick a firm with which you are comfortable, which you can trust, and which will be responsive to your needs. We have purposely remained small in order to maintain a more personal quality in our relationships with our clients and in the services we offer. You can expect, and will always receive, my immediate personal attention to your calls, letters, and emails. At Crouse Law Offices, you are not lost in a maze of paralegals, secretaries, associate lawyers and other staff. But despite being small, our experience is second to none. Our twenty- eight years of helicopter litigation experience will enable us to handle your case competently and efficiently. We routinely go against the major law firms and large aviation manufacturers and operators. They know and respect us.

>> Next Page