Last week, the Los Angeles Times reported that an 11-month-old baby, while being pushed in a stroller by her mother on the sidewalks of Pasadena, was allegedly injured when a drone crashed into her. The baby suffered a large contusion on her forehead and a cut on the side of her head. The owner of the drone claims he lost control of the unmanned aircraft.
Drone hobbyists are everywhere. Last year there were a series of well-publicized incidents where drones landed on the White House lawn. The U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is responsible for making rules and regulations for the safe operation of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), multirotors, or drones.
FAA Rules and Regulations Regarding UAS
Operating a drone or an UAS for hobby or recreation purposes is permissible and not regulated by the FAA. The laws and regulations passed by the FAA focus on prohibiting flights that endanger manned aircraft or people on the ground. The statutory parameters of model aircraft operation are outlined in Section 336 of Public Law 112-95 (the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012) (PDF). Individuals who fly within the scope of these parameters do not require permission to operate their UAS. Any flight outside these parameters (including any non-hobby, non-recreational operation) requires FAA authorization.
For example, the following safety guidelines have been issued by the FAA:
- Fly below 400 feet and remain clear of surrounding obstacles;
- Do not fly near people or stadiums; and
- Do not be careless or reckless with your unmanned aircraft - you could be fined for endangering people or other aircraft.
For additional information on permissible operation of UAS, see "What can I do with my model aircraft? Hobby/Recreational Flying"
California Laws Regarding UAS
The California legislature is working to pass laws regarding drone operation that treat flying of a drone over private property as a trespass. SB 142 makes flying a drone less than 350 feet above private property without the owner's consent a trespass violation and contains provisions to hold the violator liable for damages caused by the unauthorized operation of a drone on an individual's property. Although the proposed bill was passed by both the Assembly and Senate, SB 142 was vetoed by Governor Jerry Brown.
See also AB-1327 unmanned aircraft systems for additional information on permissible uses and restrictions of UAS by state government agencies.
Do I Have a Drone Accident Lawsuit?
The bottom line is that if a drone crashes into a person or property, the drone operator is liable for injuries and property damages he or she caused on negligence and other tort theories. You may be able to recover punitive damages, compensatory damages, or wrongful death damages. If you or someone you know has been injured by a drone or has suffered property damage because of a drone crash, contact the Law Offices of Brian Brandt online or call (866) 408-1221 to schedule your free case evaluation today.