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What Happens If A Drone Injures You?

Technology continues to advance and make life more convenient, interesting and entertaining in many different ways. One of the latest gadgets to make its way into use with the general public is the unmanned aerial vehicle, better known as the drone. This was one a high tech piece of surveillance and attack equipment that was used by the American military, but in the years since it first went into service, the cost of creating the technology has dropped significantly and, more importantly, the technology behind it has been declassified and is no longer considered a state secret.

Since then, drones have come into heavy general use, both with companies that use the machines for everything from cinematography to surveying land, and in general, consumer use, as a high tech alternative to remote-controlled planes and helicopters, except that it’s easier than ever to attach a camera to this hardware.

Of course, as this technology has come into more and more use, with more of them in the air, this has increased the chances of mishaps occurring. The brave men and women that fight forest fires in California and other states, for example, hate drones because they interfere with the fire fighting process. Meanwhile, airports have also started to develop a strong love-hate relationship with drones as some careless users try to fly them into the air space where planes and are taking off and landing. There was even one incident in December 2015 where a skier participating in the World Cup was nearly hit by a camera drone that malfunctioned and crashed within mere inches right behind the skier.

In a lot of ways, drones are now just a part of our daily life. And that means that they can play a part in accidents and mishaps. What can you do if you find you are injured and this is the result of a drone?

Finding Fault

In the event that you are caught in an accident with a drone, the first step you should take after assessing the severity of injuries is, if possible, retrieving the drone to determine ownership. As of the end of 2015, all drones that bought and used by American citizens within domestic airspace must have a registration number visible somewhere on the drone chassis.

This registration number indicates who the owner of the drone is. It is a single registration number that applies across all drones, so if a drone operator has three drones, all three drones will feature that same registration number. Once you have retrieved the registration number, you can check on the Federal Drone Registry website and reference that number to determine exact ownership details. Then you can move on to the next step.

Private Ownership

If the drone belongs to a private individual, who was using the drone for recreational purposes, then you would find a good personal injury lawyer and pursue a traditional personal injury lawsuit. In such cases, the normal charges that would be pursued in court are negligence or, in more tragic cases, wrongful death.

The important thing to note with a personal injury lawsuit relating to a drone injury is that, as of the time of this writing, there is no legal requirement for drone operators to be insured for liabilities. Any compensation you sue for in court, therefore, may come directly from the defendant’s personal finances in such a case. Drone liability coverage DOES exist, however. And you may encounter some drone operators that have it, in which case, the personal injury case would proceed in similar fashion to a vehicular accident case, but right now, drone operators do not legally have to hold these insurance policies.

Corporate Ownership

If, on the other hand, the drone that injured you was owned and operated by someone working on behalf of a company, the rules change slightly. In such instances—as would have been the case with the skier at the World Cup—respondeat superior would be the legal precedent. This literally means “let the master answer,” and indicates that the company, not an individual drone operator, must take responsibility for the incident.

So, in the case of the athlete and the camera drone, if the incident had taken place on an American ski slope, and the skier had actually been hit and injured, the production company that employed the drone operator would be the ones approached for a personal injury case.

Product Liability

If an injury should occur not because of bad drone usage, but because of a faulty product, things change once again. In this specific situation, a personal injury lawyer may direct you towards pursuing compensation from the company that manufactures the drone itself. If this is a widespread problem that has affected others, you may even be able to participate in a class action lawsuit.

Michael J. Babboni's wide-ranging legal career is based on the strong belief that everyone should be treated fairly and have access to effective legal help. Michael began putting his beliefs in action by helping the people of St. Petersburg Florida get what they are owed in civil trials fighting to protect families by making corporations pay, and honor their obligations.

What Happens If A Drone Injures You?

Goldman Babboni Fernandez
Murphy & Walsh

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