The rising recreational and commercial use of drones has outpaced societal regulation and has led to much debate. In 2015, the U.S. drone market made $105 million in revenue and almost 700,000 recreational drones were purchased. The main issues that arise with recreational drones relate to privacy and safety. A question our Broward County insurance claim lawyers hear fairly often is whether and to what extent the homeowners’ insurance policy of a drone user covers any damages caused by the drone. The short answer to the question is that coverage will likely be excluded — unless you specifically request it.
Recreational Drone Use and Injury
Drones (or “Unmanned Aircraft Systems”) are considered aircraft governed by the FAA. With the use of recreational drones comes the potential for bodily injury, personal injury, and property damage. A drone can crash into a car or house and cause property damage. It can crash into a person, causing bodily injury.
It can be used to take pictures that invade someone’s privacy, which can result in personal injury. These scenarios are not uncommon and lead to the question of whether or not any or all of these injuries are covered under the drone user’s homeowner’s policy.
What do Homeowners’ Insurance Policies Cover?
Whether or not a homeowners’ policy will cover damages caused by a recreational drone will depend on the language of the specific insurance policy. Generally speaking, a standard homeowners’ policy provides coverage for damages the insured becomes legally obligated to pay as a result of bodily injury, personal injury, or property damage arising from a covered occurrence.
However, coverage for drone-related damages will depend on the language of the specific policy, as well as what is excluded from coverage, which differs for everyone. Most homeowners’ policies contain exclusions for aircraft and hovercraft.
Is a Drone an “Aircraft” or “Hovercraft”?
Almost every homeowners’ policy excludes coverage for damages arising out of anything to do with an “aircraft” and “hovercraft.” The way they are defined will determine if recreational drones are included in the exclusion. Some insurance companies may find that drones that are not carrying cargo or a camera are for hobby purposes and thus outside the exclusion, but other courts might find drones to fall within the definition of one or both exclusions; particularly given the definition provided by the FAA.
What About Invasion of Privacy Claims?
There will undoubtedly be invasion of privacy claims brought in the future related to drones which carry cameras. If the homeowners’ policy at issue provides coverage for “personal injury” then there might be coverage. However, the same warnings about the aircraft/hovercraft exclusions apply here, and if there is any intentional conduct that results in the personal injury claim, the intentional conduct exclusion will also bar coverage under a homeowners’ policy.
If you use a drone or “Unmanned Aircraft System” for commercial or business purposes, be sure to properly register and insure your drone. Our firm’s aviation group (www.GlobalAviationCounsel.com) can help you do that as well.
The increase of recreational drone use will undoubtedly lead to an increase in claims against drone operators for injury-causing accidents. Because it is so new, there is limited law in the area, so we advise clients and potential clients who purchase a recreational drone to call their insurance broker and ensure there is coverage under their homeowners’ policy before ever using it.
If you have further questions about recreational drone insurance coverage, call the experienced insurance claim attorneys at Saavedra Goodwin at (954) 767-6333 or use our convenient online contact form.