smiling pilot flying a plane while wearing headset and sunglasses

I’m an approved pilot on my friend’s insurance policy, but I’m not a named pilot. What’s the difference? Am I exposed?

Every so often we also get the, “Can I be sued if there’s an accident?” question. Technically speaking, anyone can be “sued” for most anything these days, but as it relates to your aircraft insurance, it’s important to know the difference between an “approved” pilot and a “named” pilot because there are coverage implications for both.

Pilots can most certainly be sued. In fact, both the pilot and the policyholder are almost always sued for negligence in the aftermath of an accident. Regardless of fault or negligence, the insurance carrier has what is called a “duty to defend” with respect to the policyholder. The company is obligated by the terms of the policy to defend the policyholder until the case is closed or until the limits of the policy are exhausted. Any additional insureds or employees of the named insured will also have the defense of the carrier. However, it is important to note that the policy limit is shared among all named parties and not a “per suit” or “per person” limit. In other words, the more parties named, the thinner the policy limit is spread. Any pilots who have not been added to the policy and are not employees of the insured will have to find their own means of defense (usually through an individual renters or non-owned policy). Herein lies the importance of being named versus being approved. If there is a loss with an approved pilot, that means that the coverage isn’t voided for the policyholder. It doesn’t mean the approved pilot gets the benefits of the policy. It is always important to err on the side of caution. If you have any doubts or any questions, do not hesitate to call your agent — it could be the difference between being covered and not being covered.