Recreational Use Statute follow-up

The following came in response to the recent post, “Airpark insurance… is it required?” from Wolf Aviation Fund Executive Director Rol Morrow.

Among other things I am on the board of the Recreational Aviation Foundation, which works to preserve recreational airstrips and promote backcountry flying.

RAF has been working for the last several years to encourage local state volunteers and pilot associations to revise each state’s recreational use statute to include operation of aircraft.

The idea is to encourage owners of private use strips and managers of strips on public lands not to worry about liability and to open, or leave open, their strips for recreational users.

We are up to 16 states so far and several more are pending. Our goal is all fifty.

I am not an attorney so please do not consider this as legal advice. I am only providing general information and folks definitely should consider consulting an attorney. Make sure it is an attorney who is thoroughly familiar with the Recreational Use Statute in the state in question, and court cases involving it. Don’t go with an attorney who is not familiar with it, or you will be paying for their learning experience.

You might find such an attorney through a sporting or outdoor recreation group or landowners’ association.

The Recreational Use Statutes have proven pretty effective historically in reducing or preventing lawsuits when people are injured or property damage occurs as a result of land owners allowing their properties to be used by the public for recreational purposes and not charging a fee.

Many owners choose to go barefoot on insurance, but it is always recommended when one owns property that one have some form of liability insurance in place.

After all, regardless of the protections of the law people do file frivolous or ridiculous lawsuits and insurance usually provides funding for defense as well as expertise in dealing with lawsuits.

I would assume that the airpark, like any other property, would have some form of liability insurance already in place.

See if the existing insurance has an exclusion for aviation use or for recreational uses by the public. If not then special aviation or airport insurance is likely unnecessary.

If there is such an exclusion then one should dig deeper and see if a different policy without such exclusion would be advisable, or if special insurance covering aviation would be better.

Here is my personal non legal opinion: my ranch insurance doesn’t say anything about automotive, aviation, bicycle, or other such uses. I know it covers me if someone is hurt while riding on my roads and I believe I am also covered if someone lands in my field, especially since our state has a brand new aircraft operations provision in its Recreational Use Statute thanks to the work of volunteers in the state and advice from the RAF.

2 replies on “Recreational Use Statute follow-up”

Looked up the Florida recreational land use statute – it appears you first have to declare the land as public use land, then you are not responsible except for gross negligence. Use must be FREE, if you charge anyone anything anywhere on the land, you lose the liability protection of the statute. I see problems here, if you declare the land public, anyone can use it for any recreational use, and you don’t want a Baron running down some kid on an ATV . . . Sounds like we need to fence the airstrips, post warning signs, and get insurance. Better safe than sued.

There have been great strides in NM thanks to the RAF and many more. While we here at Mid Valley Airpark (E98) have been privately owned/public use for over 40 years, I would hesitate to do it without some form of insurance. Even if it only pays off to represent you in proving the public use exclusion.
Insurance rates can vary widely. Considering the OPS we do here, I find ours to be a pretty good buy. Of course we have over 100 dues paying lots to help cover the cost.

While the Airpark itself never charges for its use, there are commercial businesses adjacent to the field (on their own property) that provide fee for goods or services. I’d hate to have to hire an attorney on my own dime to argue that fine line.


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