Utah Mandates $100,000 Liability Insurance For Aircraft


Utah has made a minimum of $100,000 in liability insurance mandatory for owners of general aviation aircraft after some crashes involving uninsured planes. The bill was passed as an amendment to existing legislation and requires minimum coverage of up to $50,000 for bodily injury per accident, up to $50,000 for property damage and no more than $100,000 total for both types of damage. Utah is the 12th state to mandate liability insurance for GA aircraft. The only criticism of the measure so far is that $100,000 is a drop in the bucket to cover the damages that can result from airplane crashes. “It was done for the right reasons with good intentions, but it’s a little short on money,” Bryant Garrett, the manager of Ogden-Hinckley Airport, told the Standard-Examiner, reprinted by the Salt Lake Tribune.

Republican Rep. Cheryl Acton said the number was picked so as not to be “overly burdensome” on recreational pilots, according to the newspaper account. The bill was triggered by a 2020 accident in Acton’s constituency of West Jordan that destroyed a house. In 2017, a pilot on a prepurchase flight had to put down on a road after engine trouble. The aircraft hit a car and because there was no liability insurance the car owner’s only recourse was the courts. She’s suing the pilot and the company that maintained the aircraft. 

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

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  1. While a meaningful mandatory liability insurance for planes seems to make good sense, it is strange to require it state-wise, which makes it very difficult for owners and pilots to track requirements. Is it NOTAMEed or do you need to study individual states’ publications? As aircraft registrations hare handled nationally, there should be a federal standard. 100.000$ won’t cover a damaged house, let alone anyone killed in an accident, and experience with cars has shown that increased coverage doesn’t make much difference to the rates.

  2. While I personally think it’s pretty irresponsible to fly without insurance, unless you’re truly wealthy enough to self-insure at a respectable level, I know that some folks choose to do it. My question, which I was expecting the article to answer, is to whom does this legislation apply? Pilots, or aircraft owners? Aircraft based at Utah airports? Every aircraft that flies in Utah airspace? Any plane that lands at or takes off from a Utah airport? It seems like there are a zillion ways this law could be written, and it’s kind of impossible to decide if it’s sensible or not without knowing how it actually applies.

    • … AND … how are they gonna enforce it? BIG mistake !!

      Here in FL, one airport I had a T-hangar at wants liability insurance. Another, didn’t. When I inquired of the airport that didn’t they replied that IF they did that, they would become complicity — legally — for users of their airport who didn’t have it and needed it. They said that without a requirement, it’s between the parties involved in any issue and their lawyers. Makes good sense to me.

      • Makes no sense at all. I’ve rented buildings that required liability insurance, it’s quite common. And why would someone *not* have this insurance? They could crash on the highway, injure some people but walk away, and lose all of their assets. We never flew without a couple million, back in the day.

        • Charles, Why? What damage is going to happen by a parked vehicle on an airport tie down? If there is a storm that blows a plane into another then it’s not the fault of anyone but the storm and not the airport nor any owner.

          • Arthur, there are plenty of liability scenarios to consider:

            a plane in a hangar or tied on the ramp catches fire (oil/fuel leak, space heater left on, etc.) and the ensuing fire burns the t-hangar and the planes within them, or the planes around them on the ramp.

  3. Canada has mandatory liability insurance; mandated at the Federal level, as Aviation is Federal.

    Having this at the State level in the US sounds silly; time for a change folks!
    The FAA is responsible for Aviation; this should be part of their mandate.

    You cannot drive a vehicle in Canada without Liability insurance; that is provincial jurisdiction, but all areas require it.

    • It may sound silly to you, but the issue down here is that the federal government does not control insurance legislation. There is no national insurance program, so each state has the power to control the issuance of policies and what requirements are for policy limits, etc. National insurance underwriters such as Allstate, Geico, Travelers, etc., must be licensed in each state to do business there. It may sound strange, but remember that America and Canada have different types of government. Down here, state’s rights take precedence over the federal laws unless specifically granted to the Feds, and insurance is not one of those cases. Thus, each state can make its own rules. With both cars and airplanes, we can travel to the different states, even though we may not meet all the insurance requirements for those states because of reciprocity agreements between the states. For example, my home state only requires $25,000 liability coverage on my automobile, but states with higher limits still allow me to drive there. If I move there, I would have to meet their liability limit, even if I still used the same insurance company. So, transient aircraft traveling through Utah, do not have to comply with their insurance requirements.

    • This is about parking, not operating. I bet in Canada they don’t ask for your car insurance when you park at your apartment building.

  4. This “article” is merely a synopsis of the linked newspaper story. If you’re going to mention that 12 states require insurance, please name them. As another commenter suggested, please research and inform on the ramifications of this law and how it may effect transient pilots.

  5. The actual bill states that an aircraft owner must show proof of the minimum insurance prior to entering into a hangar or tie-down lease with a public airport. Transient aircraft and those based at private airports won’t need to comply.

    • Just lease a public hanger and say it’s for a plane you will “buy in the future”. Than you don’t need proof of insurance when signing the lease. Simple.

      • WTF would you not have liability insurance? Seriously? Why is this even an issue? Doesn’t everyone have at least a million bucks liability insurance?

        • I don’t think that I you have it (or not) is any of the States business. In fact, it’s probably illegal for the State to regulate parked aircraft.

        • Richard Phillips – on a single piston? 1,000,000.00 of liability is not even offered at any price on my aircraft. It is not about ratings or hours as i have those. The insurance industry just chooses not to offer that level of indemnity so i have no choice in the matter. If it was offered and was somewhat affordable i would have it.

  6. Apparently the law does not apply to all GA airCRAFT based in Utah, but rather to airPLANES:

    72-10-111.5. Aircraft public liability insurance requirements — Proof of public liability insurance.
    (1) Subject to Subsection (2), an aircraft owner shall:
    (a) maintain public liability insurance coverage for the aircraft that conforms to the requirements described in Section 31A-22-1300; and
    (b) provide a certificate of insurance issued by an insurer as proof of the owner’s valid public liability insurance covering the aircraft as part of any lease agreement with a term of six months or more between the aircraft owner and a public airport.
    (2) Subsection (1) applies to an aircraft only if the aircraft is:
    (a) an operable fixed-wing aircraft; and
    (b) used for flight.

  7. Before this Utah law, according to the GAO: “Minnesota is the only state that requires almost all GA aircraft owners to have a minimum liability insurance coverage: the required minimum coverage is $100,000 per passenger seat.”
    Ten other states have a “financial responsibility” requirement. Not the same thing!

    • It would invalidate the law eventually, but not until after you lost a lot of the fleet. The process IS the punishment.

  8. Overall, I don’t have a big issue with requirements for liability, but I find it a strange priority for a legislature.

    Uninsured motorists surely do more damage to homes alone each year than light aircraft, never mind injury and other property damage. Off road vehicles likely cause more harm as well. So you already know the limitations of such policies and are aware of a bigger problem. Seems to me this was going for low hanging fruit that was easy to do rather than spend time on hard work that really needs addressing.

    We have a really big problem nowadays where we do more and more to control people who generally are not a problem while having very little government energy spent on rule breakers who actually are the issue.

  9. The downside to requiring insurance gives too much power to insurance companies to choose who can and cannot fly. We are aware that many insurance companies aren’t willing to insure older pilots.