Insurance companies may ground pilot Harrison Ford after crash

Insurance companies may ground Ford from flying

Insurance carriers that underwrite the entertainment industry may ground actor Harrison Ford from flying after his vintage airplane experienced engine trouble and crash-landed on a Venice golf course.

Ford, who was hospitalized with moderately serious injuries, was not working on a film production when the accident happened Thursday. The actor best known for his roles in the "Star Wars" and "Indiana Jones" films recently wrapped filming on "Star Wars: Episode VII" in the UK. 

Nonetheless, underwriters are likely to closely scrutinize his flying hobby before agreeing to insure his next movie, insurance brokers and safety experts said.

"It will be stipulated in bold, black ink that he won't be able to fly while he's on the set," said Angela Plasschaert,  Los Angeles-based risk management consultant who works with film producers and insurance companies. "There wouldn't be a sane person on the planet that would want to write that policy."

Randle Frankel of Frankel & Associates, an L.A.-based insurance firm that specializes in the entertainment industry, said Ford's flying habit would certainly draw close scrutiny from insurers.

"If I was the underwriter, I would definitely look at the whole situation before deciding whether or not I was going to entertain the risk," Frankel said.

As a hedge against losses, filmmakers buy a broad package of insurance that includes coverage for equipment and vehicles, props and sets as well as the costs of reshoots because of bad weather, defective film stock or even damage caused by computer viruses.

Then there is so-called cast coverage, which compensates producers for losses they incur because of an injury, illness or death of an actor.

Before an actor gets an insurance policy, he or she must complete a medical exam and sign an affidavit detailing their lifestyle and hobbies. An actor with a history of drug use may also need to submit to a drug test.

Flying aircraft, skydiving, race car driving, mountain climbing and scuba diving are all considered "hazardous activities" that are typically excluded from cast insurance policies.

Such policies are designed to protect production companies from costly delays that occur when actors get sick or are injured. Delays can cost production companies up to $500,000 a day for a big-budget action movies.

Production companies can negotiate waivers from these requirements to accommodate stars such as Tom Cruise and John Travolta, who fly recreationally.

But getting such a waiver could more difficult for Ford, who is due to star in the upcoming sequel the 1982 sci-fi classic "Blade Runner," said Brian Kingman, a managing director of Arthur J. Gallagher & Co., a leading insurance company for the entertainment industry.

"It's a standard exclusion," Kingman said of flying. "If somebody is involved in an accident and is injured...they will be less inclined to delete that exclusion." 

A company such as Lloyd's of London specializing in high-risk insurance might be willing to write such a policy, but the premiums would be much higher, he said.

Insurers have good reason too be cautious. Over the years, there have been some hefty insurance payouts over accidents involving actors.

Marvel's "Iron Man 3" was delayed three weeks in August 2012 when Robert Downey Jr. broke his ankle. The insurance settlement was reportedly more than $10 million.

Fireman's Fund paid about $15 million when star John Candy died in 1994 during production in Durango, Mexico, on the movie "Wagons East."

The insurer paid a $7-million claim after Patrick Swayze fell off a horse and broke his legs during filming of the 1998 crime movie "Letters From a Killer."

The death of actor Paul Walker in a car accident in Valencia in Nov. 2013 delayed production of "Fast & Furious 7."  Fireman's Fund would not comment on its payout, but industry insiders said the payout was at least $70 million.

Twitter: @rverrier

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