Often referred to as an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), drones have become increasingly popular with private consumers as well as companies with commercial applications. These aircraft have no human pilot aboard to make decisions about flight operations and are usually remotely controlled by a pilot on the ground or in another vehicle. More expensive commercial UAV's may be controlled autonomously by onboard computers.
In Hollywood, the motion picture industry wants to replace more expensive cranes with camera-equipped drones for filming aerial shots. A more civic application includes the use of drones to monitor vast areas of western states where wildfires are a frequent occurrence. A noteworthy application indeed; but what happens when one of these drones falls out of the sky and causes property damage or physically injures a bystander?
This opens the door to a host of interesting concepts in determining both negligence and liability but is currently uncharted legal territory. Although tons of aviation laws have been adjudicated in courtrooms across the country, the fact that these are unmanned aircraft is an entirely new area for both state and federal justice systems. The FAA is expected to mandate a licensing process for UAV pilots before the end of the year, but at the moment, no certification exists in the United States.
The liability for accidents occurring from personal drone use and commercial drone liability would differ in cases where someone is injured. As for personal drone use, learning to fly a UAV (which is usually a small quad or six-propped aircraft) is as simple as reading the "how to" instructions that comes with the packaging. Probably the reason that some manufacturers and distributors of store-brought UAV's are already recommending the buyer of their product purchase drone liability insurance coverage. However, if the operator does nothing wrong, it could open the door to drone product defect and a potential claim against the manufacturer.
Even though the number of drone accidents are small, lawsuits will likely increase with the popularity of these unmanned aerial vehicles. If you were injured by a personal drone or commercially-operated UAV, contact Grossman Law Firm to determine the best approach to handling your claim.