The Future of Drone Liability

Written By Benjamin L. Vanasse

A recent article in Wired Magazine highlighted the company, Wing, which secured the Federal Aviation Administration’s first certification for drone deliveries. Over the past few years, private and commercial use of drones has become more common, and if recent news is any guide, it will only increase. As drones become more common, so too will incidents in which people are injured by drones.

Drone Liability

It might seem hard to believe, but drones can cause serious injury, and present a variety of risks. A group of researchers at The FAA’s Center of Excellence for UAS Research recently released a report detailing results of their research into the potential dangers of drone collisions and the severity of potential injuries to people. In addition to blunt force, penetration, and laceration injuries from being struck by the drone itself, people can potentially be injured by the lithium batteries commonly used to power the drones, which are often not marked to show compliance with industry standards, and can potentially present a fire hazard risk. Similarly, a team of researchers Virginia Tech studying the effects of human-drone collisions determined, using crash test dummies, that the impact of a head on drone collision presents a 10% risk of severe neck injury with an average sized smaller drone, or 70% with a larger drone.

Who is Responsible For a Drone Injury?

Depending on whether the drone is operated commercially or recreationally, a number of different parties could be involved. In addition to the person actually operating the drone being potentially liable, a person or company who hired the drone operator is potentially liable, the drone manufacturer, repair facilities, resellers or hobby shops are also potentially liable. Additionally, there have been a handful of recent cases where injured parties have sought to hold event facilities and/or hotels liable for drones that were operated on their property and injured guests. Additionally, a drone educator or flight instructor could potentially be liable for providing negligent flight instruction to a drone operator who injures a person because they were not taught proper knowledge and procedure.

What to Do if You Have Been Injured By a Drone

If you are injured by a drone, it is also important that you gather all potentially relevant information. This includes knowing whether the drone is being recreationally or commercially operated, whether the drone operator is contracting for a specific job with a business, if relevant, whether the operator or the operator’s employer or contractor has drone insurance.

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