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Pilot Liability: How You Can Be Held Liable for the Actions of Others
In many situations, common sense dictates that when the actions of an adult cause harm to others or damages property, that person is responsible and should be held liable. However, the real world is more complicated than this, especially the world of general aviation. As an owner of a private helicopter, if you allow others to fly your helicopter, there are circumstances where you can be found liable for their actions, even though you weren’t in the helicopter at the time.
Here are three ways this can happen:
If the Pilot Injures People or Causes Property Damage in the Wrong State
In some states, the act of giving someone permission to fly your helicopter means that you assume vicarious liability for the consequences of that person’s actions as a pilot. This liability is independent of any action or inaction on your part. It is automatic.
If You Knowingly Allow a Less Than Competent Pilot to Fly Your Helicopter
Lawyers call this negligent entrustment. Helicopters can cause a lot of harm. This protects the public from permissively placing such a harmful instrument in the hands of the wrong person. For example, if you allow a pilot who is only VFR (visual flight rules) rated to fly your helicopter on a day with poor visibility conditions, and the pilot injures people or damages property in a crash, you can be held liable. This may happen because your work or personal schedule didn’t allow you the time to verify the weather conditions for the pilot’s flight path. However, this argument may not hold up as a defense in court.
Your Mechanic’s Mistake Causes Your Helicopter to Crash
That is, your mechanic’s mistake caused your helicopter to crash when it was flown by someone other than yourself. If you hire an independent contractor to maintain your helicopter, it would seem that the fault should lie on that person’s shoulders. After all, the person is running a business and you’re the paying customer. His faulty services caused the crash, and that should be that. However, federal aviation regulations place the responsibility for airworthiness on you, the aircraft owner. Therefore, the pilot or his family can hold you responsible for injuries suffered in the crash.
All the above point to the need for comprehensive pilot liability coverage if you allow other pilots to fly your helicopter. Don’t allow liability gaps to catch you by surprise. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us.