According to a recent news report, nine people were injured after a hot air balloon made a hard landing near Goodsprings, southwest of Las Vegas. The incident occurred on Thursday morning, September 12, 2019, in a desert area just off of Cottonwood Trail. When the hard landing occurred and the basket hit the ground, it tipped and caused several people to be ejected. One woman was transported by helicopter to the hospital with serious injuries and eight others suffered minor injuries and were taken to the hospital by ambulance.
Though it is unclear why the hot air balloon made a hard landing, the National Weather Service reported that the surface winds were increasing when the accident occurred.
Hot air balloon rides are a moneymaker in Las Vegas, and are also a prominent yearly attraction in Reno, where the Great Reno Balloon Race run September 11 through September 13. Touted as the world’s largest free hot air ballooning event, the event involves up to 100 balloons each year. What happens, though, if you’re injured in a hot air balloon accident? Read on for more information.
Who Investigates Hot Air Balloon Accidents?
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) are reportedly investigating the recent crash near Las Vegas, with the NTSB expecting to release its findings in about a year. The NTSB has taken lead on many of the hot air balloon crashes in recent years, including a particularly deadly one in central Texas in summer 2016. In that crash, sixteen people died. The reason that the FAA gets involved in such crashes is because hot air balloons are considered aircraft, just as small planes and other vehicles designed to fly through the air are.
How Common Are Hot Air Balloon Crashes and What Causes Them?
The NTSB reported that—before the June 2016 incident occurred—21 people had died in hot air balloon crashes in the United States since 2000. The Texas crash increased that number to 37. However, during the first 16 years of this century, the NTSB had investigated around 225 incidents involving hot air balloons. Some of the most common causes of these crashes include:
- Excessive speed when landing
- Collapse of the parachute-like balloon due to a mid-air collision
- Coming into contact with power lines
The site of the Texas crash was directly under power lines, and a more than a year after the crash occurred, the NTSB reported that the balloon had, in fact, come in contact with power lines, causing a fire that killed all sixteen people aboard. The NTSB further noted that the pilot exhibited poor decision-making, due to impairments from medical conditions and medications he was taking at the time, which led to the crash. The pilot had enough Benadryl in his system to have the blood alcohol content of a drunken driver at the time of the accident, investigators noted, adding that he was also taking Valium and oxycodone. The pilot had previously been convicted of drunk driving on four separate occasions and had spent time in prison.
Who May Be Liable for Hot Air Balloon Injuries?
If you are injured or lose a loved one due to a hot air balloon accident, liability for the accident depends on whether you own the balloon or you were riding in a balloon that belongs to someone else, including a company that offers hot air balloon rides for profit. Some of the ways the pilot, the hot air balloon company, or others may be liable for the accident include:
- Pilot error, such as a pilot making decisions to fly in unsafe weather conditions, flying while intoxicated or on medications, or using excessive speed when landing.
- The hot air balloon company for poorly maintaining the balloon.
- The manufacturer of balloon parts if those parts are found to be defective.
- The hot air balloon company for hiring a pilot who was unfit or unsafe to fly the aircraft.
Even before the investigation of the hot air balloon accident that caused your injuries concludes, speak to a personal injury attorney, who may conduct an investigation of their own into the cause of the accident and the parties who could be potentially liable.
Your personal injury attorney can begin helping you with your case by assisting you with a personal injury claim against the insurance carrier for the pilot or the company. If the insurance carrier fails to negotiate a fair settlement for you, the work of your personal injury attorney may also include a personal injury lawsuit against the responsible parties.
Seeking Compensation Through a Personal Injury Suit
In Nevada, those who have been injured in an accident caused by someone else’s recklessness or negligence have two years following the date of the accident in which to file a personal injury lawsuit. Some of the damages you may seek through the lawsuit include:
- Medical costs and expenses.
- Lost wages due to being unable to work because of your injury or missing work to attend medical appointments related to your injuries
- Loss of opportunity due to long term disability because of the accident.
- Pain and suffering, emotional distress, and other non-economic damages.
- Punitive damages in cases where the defendant’s behavior that caused the accident was particularly egregious. Punitive damages are designed to punish the defendant or deter him or her from exhibiting such reckless behavior again.
Because this type of crash is rare and because it requires an intensive investigation by federal authorities, don’t attempt to pursue compensation on your own. Before you even provide a statement to the hot air balloon company, pilot, or their insurance carrier, talk to a personal injury attorney first.
If you were injured in a hot air balloon accident, a Las Vegas personal injury lawyer can help you understand the legal options that are available to you.