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Negligent Security Seminar | March 2015

Florida personal injury lawyers



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    The Rise of Drones and Liability Issues in Personal Injury Cases

    The Legal Challenges of Personal Injury Claims Involving Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) in Florida

    Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), commonly known as drones, have revolutionized entertainment, agriculture, and photography. They’ve also introduced complex legal challenges, particularly in personal injury cases.

    In Florida, where drones have become increasingly popular for recreational and commercial use, navigating the liability issues in drone-related accidents presents a novel challenge for legal practitioners and injured parties alike.

    The Proliferation of Drones in Florida

    Florida’s scenic landscapes and favorable climate have made it a hotspot for drone enthusiasts and commercial operators.

    With over 1.7 million drones registered in the United States by 2020, a significant number are operated within Florida for various purposes, ranging from aerial photography to surveying agricultural lands. For example, Florida Power and Light Company conducts over 400 drone assessments daily.

    However, drone usage has also led to increased incidents involving property damage, injuries, and even privacy concerns.

    Both the U.S. federal government and the state of Florida have set rules for flying drones. These rules focus on keeping people safe and protecting individuals’ privacy.

    • Federal and State Regulations: The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) handles the safety aspects of drones flying in the United States. Florida state laws mainly deal with how drones are used, focusing on protecting people’s privacy.
    • Flying Drones Legally: There are specific rules for flying drones, whether for fun or work. For example, you need a remote pilot certificate for certain operations, and there are rules about where and how high you can fly.
    • Registration: The FAA requires all drones weighing more than 0.55 pounds to be registered.
    • Safety Guidelines: There are clear guidelines for flying drones safely, like keeping your drone in sight and not flying near airports without prior authorization.

    Understanding Liability in Drone Accidents

    The increasing popularity of drones has raised significant safety concerns, particularly regarding close encounters between drones and manned aircraft. A study by Bard College ranks Orlando 11th in the nation for incidents of drones coming dangerously close to airplanes, highlighting a growing issue within the airspace of this bustling tourist destination.

    An estimated 4,250 drone injuries were reported from 2015 through 2020. Drone-related accidents can result in various forms of personal injury, from lacerations and contusions caused by direct collisions to more severe injuries resulting from drones interfering with vehicles, pedestrians, or aircraft.

    Determining liability in such cases is complicated by several factors:

    1. Operator Negligence: Many personal injury claims hinge on proving that the drone operator was negligent in controlling the UAV. This might include flying in restricted areas, operating the drone beyond a visual line of sight without appropriate technology, or failing to follow Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations.
    2. Product Malfunction: Some accidents are caused by defects in the drone itself, which can lead to claims against manufacturers for product liability. Establishing that an injury was directly caused by a product defect requires detailed investigation and expert testimony.
    3. Bystander Injury: Injuries to bystanders present particular challenges, especially when the operator is not immediately identifiable, raising issues about how victims can seek compensation for their injuries.

    Legal Framework and Regulatory Challenges

    The FAA regulates drone use under Part 107 of the Federal Aviation Regulations, setting forth commercial and recreational drone operations rules. Florida has also enacted statutes addressing drone operations, focusing on privacy rights and restrictions on drone use over critical infrastructure. However, these regulations are primarily concerned with operation standards and privacy, leaving gaps in how personal injury claims are addressed.

    Legal challenges include:

    • Identifying the Operator: In cases where drones cause injury or damage without direct operator oversight, identifying the responsible party can be difficult, complicating the process of filing a claim.
    • Applying Traditional Personal Injury Laws: The novelty of drones means that applying traditional negligence principles to drone accidents requires adapting legal concepts to fit new contexts.
    • Insurance Coverage: Questions regarding insurance coverage for drone operations also present legal challenges. While some commercial operators carry specific UAV insurance, recreational drone use may not always be covered under standard homeowners or personal liability policies.

    As drones continue to populate Florida’s skies, liability issues in personal injury cases will evolve.

    If you or a loved one has been injured by a drone, seeking legal counsel with expertise in this niche area is crucial to effectively understanding and asserting your rights. Leighton Panoff Law has a track record of securing some of Florida’s largest personal injury, negligence, wrongful death, and product liability settlements. Our expertise in handling the complexities of drone-related accidents ensures that your rights are thoroughly understood and vigorously defended. Don’t navigate this challenging landscape alone. Contact Leighton Panoff Law today to explore how we can support you in achieving the justice and compensation you deserve.

    Article by:

    John Leighton

    A nationally-recognized trial lawyer who handles catastrophic injury and death cases. He manages Leighton Law, P.A. trial lawyers, with offices in Miami and Orlando, Florida. He is President of The National Crime Victim Bar Association, author of the 2-volume textbook,Litigating Premises Security Cases, and past Chairman of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America’s Motor Vehicle, Highway & Premises Liability Section. Having won some of the largest verdicts in Florida history, Mr. Leighton is listed inThe Best Lawyers in America (14 years), “Top Lawyers” in the South Florida Legal Guide (15 years), Top 100 Florida SuperLawyer™ and Florida SuperLawyers (14 years), “Orlando Legal Elite” by Orlando Style magazine, and FloridaTrend magazine “Florida Legal Elite


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