The Increased Popularity of Drones and the Risk of Personal Injury
Industry officials estimate that nearly a quarter of a million drones will be given as Christmas presents this year. The increased popularity of consumer drones, such as the DJI Phantom, have insurance officials worried about potential personal injury. Thus far, no reported deaths have been tied to drones, but a number of accidents have occurred, with drones running into buildings in St. Louis and New York City.
Officials are particularly concerned because there are currently no federal regulations governing when, where or how you can fly a drone. No license is required and there’s little to educate a person on how to use the aerial device. Because the Phantom can be immediately operated “out of the box,” many users simply take it outside and learn to use it by operating it. With most prior radio-controlled products, the assembly requirement also included learning to fly the device. In addition, users have reported accidents caused by loss of battery power, or by attacks from birds.
So how can you protect yourself from liability if you want to take your drone to the park? Traditionally, any liability for such an accident would be covered by a homeowner policy, but some insurance companies have taken steps in the last year to specifically exclude drone accidents from coverage. Insurance industry officials say you should read the fine print on your policy before operating a drone and if coverage is excluded, you should buy specific insurance to cover that eventuality.
Most hobbyists now expect that the FAA will come out with extensive regulations on use of drones. Because the drones are so easy to use and tend to be flown by persons with little or no experience, the expectation is that the regulations will be fairly strict.
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