Liability for Drones
02 Dec 2016
The use of unmanned personal aircraft, commonly referred to as drones, for personal and business reasons has increased dramatically over the last few years. One of the largest drone manufacturers produces over 10,000 units each week, so there is no sign that drone use will be slowing down any time soon.
Drone use has become so prevalent in America, that a number of States now require drone owners to be placed on a register before flying the device outdoors.
Drone operation is still in its infancy however. So new questions continue to arise, including exactly who is responsible when a drone strikes and injures someone.
Untrained or inexperienced drone operators make mistakes. Operators may fail to consider weather conditions, like wind gusts, interferences from power lines, trees or birds, or even aircraft.
A drone crash can occur independently of an operator mistake. There could be defect in the device, or a battery failure. A drone used for aerial photography recently struck some spectators at a sporting event. The owner claimed the battery had died mid-air causing the engine to stop.
Regardless of the cause, drones can seriously injure people, leading to a potential personal injury claim for compensation.
Liability for Commercial Drone Use:
When a drone owned and operated by a company injures someone, the employer is responsible for the wrongdoing of the employee while in the course of their employment. This means the company is ultimately responsible for payment of compensation. A company would usually have public liability insurance to cover an injured person’s claim.
Personal Drone Liability:
When a person is injured by a drone being used recreationally by an individual, the liability situation is different. Personal liability attaches to the operator. If the drone operator made a mistake that caused the drone to crash, the owner could be found negligent and be held individually liable.
However, most recreational drone users don’t have insurance to cover them for injuries caused, at least not yet. Some retailers are recommending recreational drone users take out public liability insurance, just in case.
As the use of drones increases, so too will claims for compensation for any injuries they cause. Public liability insurance may soon become compulsory for all drone operators.