Most Light Aircraft in the United States are Underinsured and their Owners are Exposed

US aviation insurers continue to offer a maximum per-seat limit for reciprocating engined aircraft of $100,000. As the market has hardened this year there are fewer higher limit options available for consumers therefore more are being forced to accept this limit.

The standard $100,000 per seat limit has gone unchanged for at least 20 years. This per seat limit is so low and inadequate to treat serious injuries or death that plaintiff’s attorneys are being forced to go after personal assets more often than ever before. Furthermore, insurers are still on the hook for defense costs when their limits-offers are not accepted. Going after personal assets is rare but as the economy grows, along with the cost of living and medical expenses, something has to give.

Due to the inadequacy of the policies’ liability protection we have always recommended to clients that they practice risk management in other forms in addition to buying away the risk with a policy:

  • Proper preflight procedures.
  • Proper weather / timing selection.
  • Proper route / destination selection.
  • Maintaining proficiency and training often.
  • Ensuring aircraft maintenance is diligent and thorough.
  • Carefully choosing who to fly in the aircraft (the most important one)

Clients who are concerned about the liability exposure are careful in choosing who they fly and a lot of them only use their aircraft for immediate family travel.

Our hope is that insurers will start offering $250,000 per seat on all aircraft and charge accordingly. In our experience most of our clients would be happy to pay the additional premium. $250,000 is still completely inadequate to cover most serious injury or wrongful death settlements. But it is more likely to be accepted by plaintiffs to avert lawsuits for personal assets.