A routine local training mission, a Mayday call five minutes out and lost radio contact. A hard ocean landing leaves three marines injured and one dead. Who is responsible?
Training exercises conducted at Marine Corps Base Hawaii and other military facilities in the area are common. Some involve aircraft, like the March 2011 exercise that ended with the CH-53D Sea Stallion helicopter crash in Kaneohe Bay. Recently returned from seven-month deployment in Iraq, the two-pilot, two-passenger crew had a good safety record.
In serious or fatal accidents involving the military, investigation is usually conducted by the military. All branches of the military enjoy substantial immunity from liability for injury suffered by active-duty military personnel. While many believe that benefits for injury suffered in a military accident are limited to those provided by the government, action may be possible against third parties involved in the accident. How does that work?
Defects and deadly accidents
While the government is shielded from lawsuits filed by military personnel, manufacturers or contractors who negligently produce or maintain equipment may be subject to legal action if an accident occurs.
In the Kaneohe Bay accident, one of two fuel tanks ruptured and spilled about 500 gallons of fuel into the bay. While the rupture may have resulted from the accident rather than causing it, investigation into liability of other parties is important after serious military accidents. Potentially liable parties include:
Non-military maintenance vendors
In helicopter and other aviation accidents, liability may arise when a part is produced or maintained outside the design authorized by the military. This might include:
Defective computers or software
Defective gearbox, engine or other mechanical failure
If involved in a military accident, get experienced legal advice on who is — and is not — liable for any injury you suffered.
Posted in Personal Injury