Understanding Different Pilot Coverages

I’m an approved pilot on my friend’s insurance policy but I’m not a named pilot. What’s different? 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 almost 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 different coverage implications for both.

Pilots can most certainly be sued. In fact, both the pilot and the policyholder are almost always sued 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. They are 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 insured will also have the defense of the carrier.

However, it is important to note 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. If a pilot has not been added to the policy and is not an employee of the insured, they will have to find their own means of defense (usually through individual renters or non-owned policy).

This is why it’s important to know the difference between a named and approved pilot. If there is a loss with an approved pilot, all that means is 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 in being covered and not covered.