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Drones and Personal Injury

Drones and Personal Injury

With hobbyist drones getting cheaper all the time, more and more of them are taking to Nevada’s skies. As drones become more common, their potential for causing personal injury grows as well. A machine that’s improperly flown too low or too close to people, or that crashes into a car, can cause serious injury, especially at high speeds.

Drone operators are presumed liable for personal injuries

Someone who is injured by a drone, whether directly or indirectly, has the benefit of a burden-shifting statutory rule providing that an operator of a drone is presumed to be liable for personal injuries caused by the drone or an object dropped from it. An operator can rebut this presumption only by showing that his or her negligence was not the cause of the injury. NRS 493.060.

For example, if an operator loses control of a drone and it smashes into the windshield of a car, causing the driver to lose control and crash, the operator would be legally liable for the resulting injuries unless an intervening force caused the accident. That might happen if the driver kept going despite having a drone stuck in the car’s windshield, and didn’t see a pedestrian because of the blocked view.

Nevada law restricts when and where drones can be flown

Drone operators are subject to a range of general restrictions. The general rules governing other kinds of aircraft also apply to drones, while specific rules have been adopted to address drones’ unique character. Some of the important rules are as follows:

  • A drone must be flown at sufficient altitude so that it doesn’t interfere with existing use of the land or water beneath it, and so it doesn’t pose imminent danger to persons or property.
  • Flying a drone lower than 250 feet from the ground over personal property can constitute unlawful trespass if the operator has done so before and the owner of the property has warned the operator against doing so, either in person or by posting compliant signs.
  • Drones cannot be operated within 250 feet of a “critical facility” or within five miles of an airport (unless the airport authority has given consent). Critical facilities include gas and oil processing plants, water treatment facilities, power plants, and prisons. They also include transmission lines.
  • Weapons cannot be mounted on drones. Doing so is a felony.

Most drones (other than very small ones) must be registered with the Federal Aviation Administration. In the event of an accident, the owner of a drone cannot simply “disappear” without facing penalties not only for the accident itself, but also for hit-and-run. If a drone causes injuries it’s important to take control of it to ensure that the owner can be identified.

The law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has served personal injury clients in the Las Vegas area for over 45 years. If you have been injured by a drone our attorneys are available to answer your questions. For a free consultation reach out to us today at 702-388-4476 or contact us through our website.