Well-known companies such as Alphabet (Google’s parent company), Amazon, and even Domino’s have started testing out drone delivery systems. While this use of drone technology may be extremely convenient, what happens if someone gets injured? Who is held liable for a pedestrian’s commercial drone related injuries? And what should you do if you are injured?
Commercial Use of Drones
A drone is a remotely controlled, relatively small, unmanned aircraft that is essentially a flying robot. Commercial uses for drones include diverse applications such as remote photography and surveillance, remote inspection, reforestation, and the delivery of goods. They may be used by news stations, real estate agencies, construction companies, delivery services, public works, and search and rescue teams. They have quickly evolved from a hobby into a viable commercial venture. According to the FAA, commercial drone registrations have totaled about 413,000 with 157,062 remote pilots certified.
Commercial Drone Injuries
Commercial drones can be very lightweight, which means that a strong gust of wind can easily blow them off course. Many drone accidents are the result of pilot error, which can send a drone careening into bystanders unexpectedly. What may be worse, however, is if a drone loses control and strikes the windshield of a car or truck and the driver swerves into another vehicle or a pedestrian. Drones can also be a problem for the local airspace, sometimes getting too close to helicopters or aircraft, risking a major disaster.
Because the propellers on these drones are very thin and thus sharp at the edges, serious cuts (including those requiring stitches) can occur if you are hit by one while it is flying. Back in 2014, a reporter had the tip of his nose severed by the blades of a drone that was carrying mistletoe through the midst of a holiday crowd. These types of severe injuries can also occur when drone pilots purposely buzz crowds.
Drones can also be attacked by local wildlife, as in the case of eagles and hawks that perceive drones as a threat. These attacks can cause drones to behave unexpectedly and crash into onlookers. Drones weigh enough to cause some serious head and neck damage if you are struck by one or if one falls out of the sky. Concussions and fractured noses are not uncommon in connection with drone accidents. One of the newer uses of drones is item delivery, which can further complicate matters. If an item or package is dropped from a substantial height in the sky, it can cause very serious injury beyond just cuts and bruises.
There can be aftermath from a drone injury, too: facial scarring or disfigurement, psychological trauma, medical expenses, pain and suffering, and income loss, just to name a few.
The Question of Liability
While it seems rather clear that the commercial entity behind the drone operation is responsible, there are larger companies that have developed clever ways of distancing themselves from liability responsibility. One method of achieving this is to exclusively hire subcontractors to handle deliveries or other commercial operations. The subcontractor is then held liable, but they may not have enough insurance and assets to cover the damages and injuries that may occur.
In addition, larger companies may avoid having their brand or name appear on the drones, just like we sometimes see with delivery trucks transporting products exclusively on behalf of one supplier. When accidents occur due to the creation of an unsafe work environment and poor safety policies, the contracting company may have distanced itself from responsibility and effectively lessened their own liability.
What If You Are Injured by a Drone?
Your first step should always be to seek medical treatment. You should also record the model of the drone and license information for its operator. Try to get details about the liability insurance of the operator and the company that owns the drone. Then try to get information from others involved, including witnesses. Finally, report the injury to the local police.
Unfortunately, it may be difficult to get all of this information, especially if the drone operator attempts to fly the drone away from the scene. However, the more information you can gather initially, the better. This information will be used to strengthen your case.
The commercial use of drones is growing rapidly, and along with that, we are going to start seeing an increase in drone injuries. As more drones begin carrying items and packages through our cities and towns, it is important that we recognize the danger that they can pose and who is responsible for injuries caused by these drones. If you are injured, the steps to take are similar to what you would for a car accident. However, because many commercial entities have learned how to distance themselves from liability for drone injuries, it is important to seek the assistance of an experienced lawyer who can help you get the benefits provided by law.
Donaghue & Labrum
If you have been injured by a commercial drone, contact Donaghue & Labrum. Our team will fight to see you get the compensation you deserve under the law. We will work tirelessly to protect your rights – and will do so on a contingency basis, so there is no cost to you until you receive compensation. We have extensive experience in areas including injury litigation and product liability. Let us put our decades of experience to work for you. We will help you settle out of court or carry your case all the way to court before a judge and jury. Contact Donaghue & Labrum today and let us fight for you!