Drone injuries: good times come with a potential for harm

As drones become more popular, their role in injury-causing accidents will likely increase.

Recreational and commercial use of drones has exploded in recent years. These unmanned small aircraft - sometimes known as "quadcopters," "unmanned civilian vehicles," "remote controlled flying devices" or "unmanned aviation systems" - have proven both beneficial and fun among the general public and among emergency service personnel. A study performed in 2016 by the Center for the Study of the Drone at New York's Bard College showed that more than 340 law enforcement, firefighting and search and rescue agencies across the country have official drone programs in place. North Carolina alone had six agencies and organizations included in that study.

Though there are federal regulations governing the maximum height at which drones can be operated by civilian users for recreational purposes and the top speed allowed in consumer devices, drones are a relatively new frontier for state lawmakers. There are few laws in place in North Carolina (and many other states) to dictate safe drone operation for recreational purposes, instead focusing mainly on commercial uses and limitations on law enforcement agencies' use of unmanned aircraft systems. With little regulation unfortunately comes more users operating their drones in an unsafe and potentially injury-causing manner.

Serious injuries, legal liability from drone use

Even without extensive regulatory guidance in place for recreational users, North Carolina does recognize that these flying machines, many of which can fly hundreds of feet in the air and reach speeds in excess of 100 miles per hour with little or no formal training required, can cause harm. Exposed propellers can easily shred skin if these devices crash into a person, as well as causing traumatic brain injuries, concussions or broken bones. The injuries can be severe and long-lasting, requiring corrective surgery, plastic surgery, physical therapy, medical devices, pain management and scar revision, depending on the extent of the original damage.

Claims for drone injuries might be covered by the owner/operator's homeowner's insurance, but policy limits and low-balling by insurance companies could leave injured victims struggling to pay medical bills and cover related expenses. This is where the assistance of a personal injury attorney with experience handling these and other difficult injury cases can be invaluable.

An attorney can prove that the drone was being operated in a negligent manner by the owner/operator (for example, if the operator was intoxicated or distracted, or was racing another drone at the time), if there were defects in the drone itself that made it inherently dangerous, or if there were other extenuating factors that might lead to third parties also sharing liability.

To learn more about your legal rights following a drone-related injury in North Carolina, contact the Cary-based Law Offices of John M. McCabe, P.A. Call them today locally at 919-899-9852, toll free at 877-320-1851 or send an email to schedule a free initial consultation.