The use of drones is increasing throughout the United States and this rise will continue. There are many benefits that businesses have yielded through this increase in drone use. These benefits include the reduced risk of injury in certain professions. Roof inspectors no longer having to climb onto roofs is one example of this. But while drone use has reduced the risk of injury to certain workers, it has also increased the risk of injury to everyday people. It goes without saying that if you are struck by an improperly operated UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle), then you may suffer serious harm. If you have in fact suffered such an injury, it is crucial that you contact an attorney immediately.
There are several issues that impact the handling of drone injury cases. These include:
- The type of injury sustained in such an accident
- Who to name as a defendant after a drone-related injury
- The theories of liability in such cases
We will discuss each of these issues below.
The Types Of Injuries Sustained In Drone Cases
There are a number of ways in which a drone can injure a bystander. When someone is struck by an out-of-control or falling UAV, then they may suffer a traumatic brain injury if they are hit in the head. Such an impact may even result in a wrongful death. Even if the outcome is not so extreme, these types of accidents are likely to result in cuts, lacerations, broken bones, etc. The damages for such a case can include medical expenses, lost wages, future losses, as well as compensation for pain, suffering, and emotional distress. In extreme cases, where a life has been lost, then the surviving family members may seek compensation for the loss of companionship.
Identifying the Potential Defendants In a Drone Accident Case
Liability of Individuals
There are obvious times when an individual owner of a drone will be liable for an accident. Such liability can stem from the negligent operation of the drone in a park or some other public area. An individual also may be liable on the basis of operating a drone without the appropriate FAA license (more on this below). While many individual people are often judgment proof, or at least lack the resources to pay a judgment, it may be possible to bring a claim against their homeowner’s insurance or some other form of coverage.
Many companies and business entities use drones in the course of their business. Examples can include home inspection companies and roofers who utilize drones to avoid climbing on top of roofs. Other examples can include real estate brokerages, or photographers whom they employ, who wish to take aerial photos of a home. There are many other businesses that utilize drones in the course of company business and if an accident occurs, then the company will face liability. Possible defendants can include the employee who was operating the drone, the business itself, and, depending on the nature of the business activity, other potential third parties.
Identifying each of the aforementioned possible defendants will be an important part of any case involving a business. This is due to the fact that additional causes of action may be brought against a party that would not be brought against the drone operator. One such cause of action can include an employer’s negligence in hiring and supervision. If, for example, the company failed to adequately train the employee on the use of the drone then it would face liability for its failure to do so. Other potential defendants could include those who hired the company to perform a service if they knew that the company was not properly licensed to operate the drone (more on this below). Failing to name all necessary defendants can result in a victim not receiving their full compensation.
Theories of Liability in Drone Accident Cases
Drone Operators and Their Employers Can Be Held Liable For Negligence
One who operates a drone has a duty to ensure that they are taking reasonable precautions which will avoid injury to others. Such duties can include making sure the drone is properly maintained, not flying it in a dangerous manner, and paying attention to what they are doing when operating the drone. If an operator fails to meet this obligation, and an accident results, then they will be liable for any damages a victim incurs as a result.
Companies who utilize drones in their business also have a duty to ensure that their operators are properly trained and are aware of how to operate the drone in a safe fashion. They must also take reasonable steps to screen their employees to ensure that they are not providing their drones to a risky individual. A company can be liable for the negligence of an employee if they fail to adequately screen, train, and supervise the individual.
Drone Operators May Face Liability For the Failure to Follow FAA Guidelines
The Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) has issued regulations that govern the operation of drones. Under part 107 of these guidelines, anyone utilizing a drone that weighs over 55 pounds for a commercial purpose must register the drone and obtain a required FAA certification. If a company operates a drone without meeting these requirements, and an injury results, the violations of applicable guidelines may be enough to establish liability against the defendant(s). It is important to remember that the evidence needed to establish liability, in any case, will always depend on the facts of the matter.
Contact a Fort Lauderdale Injury Attorney if You Have Been Hit by a Drone
If you or a family member are in Florida and have been hit or otherwise injured by a drone, it is important that you seek legal representation immediately. Even if you believe that you are not seriously injured, symptoms can develop over time. We will take the steps necessary to identify all potentially liable parties as well as any applicable insurance coverage. Contact us online or by telephone to speak with a Fort Lauderdale personal injury attorney.