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Pilot texting may open door to wrongful death claim in Missouri

While most states already have laws on the book pertaining to the legality of texting and driving, texting and operating an aircraft is not yet an official crime. However, a pilot who was believed to be texting and flying a helicopter at the same time has been determined by authorities to be the cause of a deadly crash in Missouri. This finding may very well open the door to a wrongful death suit.

The pilot was operating a medical helicopter carrying a patient and several medical personnel at the time of the crash. Four people in total died when the helicopter ran out of fuel. According to authorities, this is the first documented case where texting by a pilot has been linked to a fatal accident.

The investigation into the crash revealed that the pilot and a woman exchanged a number of texts while the helicopter was in the air and a multitude of texts beforehand, apparently when the pilot should have been conducting pre-flight checks. The helicopter was determined to have been low on fuel before takeoff. Experts contend the pilot would have realized that if not for possibly being distracted by texting.

While the pilot died alongside the passengers in this tragic crash, the families of those involved may have grounds for a civil suit against his estate. They may be able pursue a wrongful death claim as authorities have determined his actions, texting in particular, seemed to have played a role in why the helicopter crashed. Winning a civil claim in a Missouri court may garner damages that can be used to alleviate medical costs or funeral costs for those left behind.

Source:, "NTSB: Pilot's texting contributed to copter crash," April 9, 2013

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