Prior to 1979 there were no liability insurance requirements on light airplanes under the Virginia Code. In addition, the Virginia federal courts ruled that the Federal Aviation Act provided no basis to impose vicarious liability on the owner of an aircraft for the negligence of someone who was a bailee.
*vicarious liability assigns liability for an injury to someone who did not cause the injury, but who has a certain legal relationship (eg., parent/child, employer/employee, etc.) to the person who did act negligently.
* a bailee is someone to whom an article is left and who is responsible for the safe return of said article.
“Fortunately, the current state of the law provides protection for those who may be injured or otherwise damaged by the operation of a small aircraft,” according to Washington Dulles area aircraft injury lawyer Doug Landau.
Current Virginia law requires proof of financial responsibility. (See Virginia Code sections 5.1-88.1 and §5.1-88.2, Ex-300). This is a prerequisite to licensure of aircraft, which translates into limits of $50,000/$100,000/$25,000; or a single limit policy providing $250,000 coverage, including passenger liability of $50,000 per passenger seat.
Aircraft defined as “ultra light” by the Federal Aviation Administration may be insured by a $100,000 single limit policy. ”Aircraft” is defined by Virginia Code section 5.1-1, Ex-298, to exclude hang gliders.
An aircraft insurance policy may include “Medical Expense Coverage,” which provides limited payment for medical bills, usually incurred within a year of a crash or other accident, and which is regardless of fault or negligence. (See Virginia Code section 38.2-125, Ex-301).
Generally, an aircraft liability policy issued for delivery in Virginia may not exclude coverage on grounds that the aircraft is operated in violation of federal, civil, state, or local regulations, subject to certain specified exceptions. See Virginia Code section 38.2- 2227, Ex-301.
If you or someone you know have been involved in an airplane or aircraft incident and there are questions as to what laws apply, and what insurance was required on the part of the aircraft owner, email or call Abrams Landau, Ltd. at once (703-796-9555).