Drones, Hospitals, and Insurance Companies

Friday May 6th, 2016 will forever be remembered as the day I was attacked by my own drone for being an idiot…

It was the first really nice Friday night we’ve seen in a while and we were hanging out on our balcony enjoying a few drinks and playing with the kid when I had a “brilliant” idea. I was going to launch the drone from our balcony and hover it just away from the building enough to capture us hanging out, and then fly it straight up in the air over the building to catch a glimpse of the Chicago skyline. I kept playing it out in my head over and over again trying to convince myself that it was a good idea (this should have been my first clue that it was not, in fact, a good idea). I’m always extremely cautious when it comes to flying the drone. I’m always in a wide open park, I always calibrate it before every flight, batteries are always charged, I always have my Anker charging device in case my phone starts to get low, I follow all of the drone guidelines in terms of altitudes, what not to fly over, how close, or not close, to things I can fly… all of that. I’m always aware of everything happening around before I take-off, so I’m not sure why I thought this would be a smart idea.

After debating it for a few more minutes I decided to go for it…

Our condo is on the 4th floor of a four story building, but there is a steel beam overhang above us. It’s totally open aired and the drone can fit through the slats if it needed to, but my idea was to use the app to auto-takeoff and hover, which would bring it just above the railing. I would then slowly fly it out above the railing and into the open air in front of our condo, turn it around, get the shot I wanted, and then fly it straight up to capture the skyline. That was my plan… and obviously none of this went according to the plan.

I got everything setup on the balcony, got the drone calibrated, and was ready to takeoff when I decided that this was probably a bit more dangerous than I originally thought and I didn’t want anyone to get hurt outside of myself, if something were to go wrong. So with that in mind I told my wife to take the dog and the kid inside until the drone was safely hovering outside of the balcony…

This was the smartest thing I did that night.

The drone took off and hovered just fine about 4-feet off of the balcony and everything was looking good. Just then though a slight gust of wind came through and started pushing the drone towards the sliding glass door of the condo. In my haste, I tried to correct the movement of the drone, but mistook which way the drone was facing and flew it straight into the glass door.

Two of the propellers instantly broke and the drone dropped to the ground, upside down. It was making a huge racket, the dog was barking, the baby was crying, it was a nightmare and I panicked.

The drone has a safety cut-off, which I know about because I’ve read the manual front to back a handful of times, and have even used it before, but for some reason I just wasn’t thinking. Instead of pulling down and in on both thumb sticks on the remote (which will kill the motors), I grabbed the drone by the landing feet and picked it up… bad idea. The drone immediately tried to right itself and flipped over, sending the propellers spinning straight into my arm as I held on as tight as I could for fear of where the thing would fly off to if I let go.

The broken propeller blades cut into my arm over and over again until they finally stopped against my arm, at which point I just freaked out and pulled the battery. But by that point I was already a bloody mess. (click here if you want to see the before stitches pic, slightly graphic)

I brought the drone inside, turned everything off, immediately rinsed off my arm under the faucet and informed my wife that I would need to go to the emergency room and get some stitches. Thankfully we live two blocks from the hospital, so we threw our daughter in the car and they drove me over there and dropped me off at the ER. I wasn’t about to have them wait with me (it was almost our daughter’s bedtime), so I sent them home.

Two and a half hours, 8 stitches, and lots of doctors and nurses coming in to see what a drone accident looked like, I was sent home from the ER with an idiotic story to tell and the injuries to prove it.

drone accident stitches

My next concern was how much my stupidity was going to cost in terms of medical bills. We have insurance, which comes with a $150 ER visit copay, so I knew that was coming, but what I wasn’t expecting was to receive a bill for ~$800 a few days after the incident. Our insurance company covered some of the costs, but that is apparently what I was responsible for, and that made me feel even shittier.

Now I wasn’t just the idiot who cut up his arm being dumb with his drone, I was also the idiot who had to pay almost as much as the drone cost in medical bills… or so I thought…

I decided it would be a good time to check out our actual insurance coverage to see what it says about ER visits, and I’m glad I did. Apparently we’re only responsible for the $150 copay and insurance should pick up 100% of the tab for any other emergency room bills… Well then why the f$#@ was I being billed $800 for my ER visit?

So I shot off a message to the insurance company using their online messaging portal and received a message back within 24-hours stating that I was right and that they would cover 100% of the bill that they had sent me… and that’s great news, but if I would have never questioned it and just paid the bill, would they have ever said anything… probably not, and that’s ridiculous.

Don’t get me wrong, I know that I need insurance, and no matter what I will always have insurance, but it’s shit like this that makes me dislike insurance companies. And I know I should be more aware of what my actual coverage is, I guess I shouldn’t just trust that the insurance company is doing the right thing, but this just seems like they were blatantly trying to rip me off. And because of this, I had to question another ER bill from February when my daughter was brought in for rapid breathing and wheezing, which they claimed she was brought in for an ear infection, which is not an emergency, thus not 100% covered… Yes, she happened to have an ear infection also, but that wasn’t the main reason she was brought in, so I’m battling with them on that one right now.

But anyways, the moral of this story is, no matter how cautious you are with your drone you can still be an idiot and put other people at risk. So if it seems like a bad idea, it probably is and it’s not worth it, I don’t care how cool you think the shot might be. And I know I might get some heat for being “one of those” drone operators that gives all the good drone operators a bad name, but like I said, I’m normally extremely cautious when it comes to flying and this was just one of those bad lapses in judgement that will never happen again.

And also, make sure you know what your health insurance coverage is and don’t let them try to rip you off…



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