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Renters Insurance by Jon Keller

QUESTION:

I cannot find an insurance company that sells non-owner helicopter coverage. How can I protect myself when renting a helicopter or flying someone else’s helicopter?

ANSWER:

You have raised an important issue that most renter pilots ignore.

The Risks

Most pilots who rent aircraft ARE NOT covered by the renter’s policy – meaning, if you rent an aircraft and there is an accident, you can be held responsible for your conduct that contributed to the accident, with no insurance coverage. Even if the owner has insurance which pays for damage to the aircraft or injuries to someone else, the owner’s insurance company can sue you and the owner can sue you for the deductible. Even if you believe you were not at fault, if you get sued, you will have to pay for your own defense lawyer.

Even if you are receiving dual flight instruction in someone else’s aircraft and you are not acting as pilot-in-command, you may still be held responsible for any damages or injuries arising from your negligence. Contrary to popular belief, being a student or having someone else designate themselves as the PIC does not immunize you from responsibility for your actions. You may still be responsible for causing an accident and be held accountable.

Possible Coverage

Some FBO/Flight School policies provide insurance coverage for renter pilots, but it is important to know the details before you fly. Some important information to get on paper is: Does the FBO’s policy provide renter liability coverage, and if so how much? Is the renter pilot responsible for the deductible, and if so, how much? Can the FBO or owner sue the renter pilot for damage to the aircraft, loss in value of the aircraft due to damage history, or loss of use damages?

Although non-owner helicopter coverage is not available (based a recent check of several brokers and insurance carriers) you may be able to get added as a ‘named insured’ on an FBO’s policy. That way, you will have the same coverage as the FBO. You may still be facing a substantial deductible but, at a minimum, the policy would pay for the cost of your defense lawyer and cover you for any losses within the coverage limits of the policy.

Know Before You Fly

Most people have never read their own car policy. The same is true for aircraft owners. But at least car owners and aircraft owners have some form of coverage. As a renter, you should start with the assumption that YOU HAVE NO COVERAGE, and go from there.

Ask to see the policy for the FBO or Flight School you are renting from. If they do not want to show you their policy, you should think about finding an FBO that will. There are serious risks in flying and you should be fully informed.

If a counter clerk or flight instructor at an FBO or flight school says you are covered as a renter pilot, get a copy of the insurance certificate and confirm exactly what type of coverage you have before you fly.

For more information about the risks of non-owner liability go to Avemco’s site at www.avemco.com/insuranceproducts/noneedtoknow.asp#12. Avemco only offers fixed-wing non-owner coverage, but the site gives good information about the risks of flying someone else’s aircraft or flying as a student.

Posted in: Regulatory

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