Tree stand injury accidents outnumber even gun injuries during hunting season. Deer hunting is popular, and deer hunters want every possible advantage to ensure a successful hunt. One such advantage is tree stands, sometimes referred to as “deer stands,” which hunters use to avoid detection. Tree stands reduce the hunter’s scent, remove them from a deer’s line of sight, and increase camouflage.
Using a deer stand also provides the utility of a higher vantage point and better shooting angle for the hunter. The elevated height is what makes tree stands so popular, but also what makes them extremely dangerous. Falls from these elevated heights can cause life-threatening injuries or even death.
Our attorneys at Monsees & Mayer, P.C. take pride in their ability to successfully represent hunters injured in tree stand accidents. In fact, Timothy Monsees, Reed Martens, and Ryan Frazier are experienced hunters themselves. They understand the sport, the equipment and the inherent risks. They use their knowledge and love of the sport to help injured hunters obtain the compensation they deserve.
Mass-produced stands come in a variety of forms. Among the most popular are the following:
Hang-On Tree Stands
Hang-on stands connect to the tree through a combination of friction, straps, and gravity. A hunter must then apply a ladder or steps in order to reach the top of the stand.
Climber Tree Stands
Climber stands ultimately serve the same function as a hang-on stand. The hunter uses the climber stand to climb the tree like a lineman’s belt.
Ladder Tree Stands
A hunter assembles ladder stands from the ground up, climbing to the top as they go. There is a platform at the top of the ladder, which is what the hunter uses to hunt from.
Two-Man Ladder Stand
These are basically ladder tree stands made for two people. They provide hunters with more space than other tree stands.
Regardless of the style, all tree stands have some type of seat, and many have rails that are meant to serve as a protection from falls. Certain stands can hang as high as 15 to 20 feet, and falls from such elevated positions can result in serious injuries, occasionally even brain injuries or death.
Tree stands can fail as soon as they are erected, or can deteriorate over time and fail due to worn out parts. Poorly manufactured straps or cables, which are meant to secure the stand to the tree, can be defective and cause failure. A defective tree stand is one that, due to design or manufacture, will fail and fall to the ground, often leaving the hunter with life-threatening injuries.
Ladder stands provide a more specific example; these can fail when metal parts do not have sufficient dimensions to properly bear loads, or if they have unstable connection points. Hanging stands, on the other hand, may fail when straps are made of materials that quickly lose their pliancy and strength when exposed to the elements. Climbing stands are not immune to failure, either. They become dangerous when there are defects in design that lead to a weak or unstable connection to the tree.
Stands can also fail due to hunter error. However, when hunter error is due to a lack of proper instructions or warnings, the manufacturer is also to blame. Hunters come in all sizes and have varying levels of experience. Hence, instructions on use and erection of stands need to be clear and understandable, which is unfortunately not always the case.
Big Game Tree Stand Recall
Many tree stands fail due to the product itself being defective. The Consumer Product Safety Commission announced a recall on some of Big Game’s tree stands. There are cable assemblies on certain 2014 tree stand models may break during use. The main risk being a fall hazard to users. There has already been one user of Big Game Tree Stands that has fallen and experienced injuries to the knee, wrist, and hip due to the defective tree stand. Learn more here.
It is not uncommon to hear about hunting injuries involving weaponry, but most hunters do not expect to be seriously injured while using their tree stand. Below are some of the common dangers of tree stand use, and the additional dangers of defective stands, which are all too common in the tree stand industry.
Falling is the number one risk when using a tree stand. Falls happen for a host of reasons. Some are the fault of the hunter, but many others are the fault of the tree stand itself. Whenever a hunter sits on a tiny platform, suspended only by straps, leverage, and gravity, falling presents an undeniable risk. Moreover, these falls can occur from as high as 15 to 20 feet in the air, frequently resulting in injuries.
Many tree stands are manufactured in factories that do not allow ergonomic or environmental testing. Because of this, tree stands do not stand up against environmental conditions or variations in assembly. In addition, manufacturers do almost nothing to protect the straps against the degrading effects of the environment, particularly the damaging effect of ultraviolet radiation (i.e., sunlight).
Poor Quality Parts
Tree stands that are not made with high quality materials are far more likely to fail and cause serious injuries to their users. Ladder stands may be frequently manufactured with poor quality metal and have dimensions not suitable for their intended use. These factors give the hunter little margin for error if there are even slight oversights in erection and maintenance.
Further, ladder stands are held to the tree by straps, which are ratcheted to the tree to pull it tight. Sawtooth braces dig slightly into the tree, and, along with the force of gravity and the straps, keep it from slipping down the tree. Failures from these polypropylene straps are common, and unfortunately, tree stand manufacturers do little to inform a user on how to evaluate their condition.
Unclear or Insufficient Labeling
Clear instructions are important for any product, but when said product runs the risk of seriously injuring its users, clear instructions are absolutely vital. Tree stands are no exception when it comes to the dangers of insufficient labeling or instructions.
Every stand comes labeled with a weight limit, but their wording can be confusing (and therefore, dangerous). A two-man ladder stand, for example, is simply advertised as “two-man,” often lacking a specific numerical limit for the two potential users.
Tree stand manufacturers routinely advise hunters to wear safety harnesses in the event of falls. When a hunter falls from the stand, the harness will catch them and allow them to step back onto the stand. However, the harnesses are primarily designed to arrest a fall from the stand and are not meant as protection when the stand itself collapses.
In the case of a collapsed tree stand, safety harnesses will simply suspend the hunter in midair. However, prolonged suspension causes blood to pool in the feet and legs, pulling life-giving blood from the vital organs. Death from suspension trauma can occur in as little as 30 minutes.
There is little recognition in the tree stand industry that devastating and life-threatening conditions can arise from the harnesses. While it is simplistic to say the harnesses prevent a fall and impact with the ground, separate, lethal risks have been documented from the use of harnesses.
While the use of safety harnesses is a wise choice. The collapse of a defective stand is primarily the responsibility of the tree stand manufacturer.
In any life-threatening situation, it is crucial that you have the right tools and knowledge to survive, and tree stand injuries are no exception. Even carrying a cell phone when you hunt is a potential life-saving connection. If you fall or are suspended and have the presence of mind and body to call for help, do so immediately.
Once you have summoned help, the next steps are largely dependent on your physical condition:
- Tend to your injuries
- Alert friends, fellow hunters, and loved ones
- Fully document the scene
- Secure the stand
- Do not alter anything
- Store the stand
- Watch what you say
- Avoid speaking about the accident
- Obtain all documentation
If you or a loved one has suffered a tree stand injury, there may be cause for legal action against the manufacturer and the seller of the tree stand. This includes the:
The product must be “in substantially the same condition as it was at the time it left the manufacturer.” Any alteration of the product is subject to a claim that the product is not in the same condition. Even natural aging of the product can be the subject of such a claim, if some scheduled maintenance or inspection was overlooked. Failure to lubricate a product, for example, may over time alter the condition of the product.
It is important to note, you do not have to be the original purchaser to bring a claim for your injuries. You could have received the defective tree stand as a gift or purchased it from a friend. As long as there were no alterations or modifications to the original design, you can still bring a claim.
In any lawsuit, damages fall into one of two categories: general and special.
General damages tend to include the following:
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- The ability to engage in certain activities or hobbies
- Distress and anxiety
Special damages are those for which a specific monetary figure can be assigned or easily calculated. They include the following:
- Medical expenses
- Future medical expenses
- Surgeries or rehabilitation
- Lost wages
- Loss of future earnings capacity
- Loss of services
- Expenses incurred if someone is unable to do certain things around the household (i.e., hiring someone to mow the lawn)
- Life care expenses
- Expenses for future living that arise solely due to the consequences of injury (i.e., a wheelchair ramp, future transportation or supervisory care)
An experienced injury attorney is not only helpful, but necessary. In many instances, you can find an attorney who has litigated a substantially similar case; they may even have experience against the same defense attorney and the expert witnesses hired to testify.
At Monsees & Mayer, P.C., we take pride in our ability to successfully represent hunters injured in tree stand accidents. We understand the sport, the equipment, and the inherent risks. We use our knowledge and love of the sport to help injured hunters obtain the compensation they deserve.
Our attorneys are not afraid to take on big manufacturers like Ameristep, Big Game Tree Stands, and API Outdoors. You can read the opinion of the United States Court of Appeals in the case of Bradley v Ameristep if you want a proven record of the results we can provide.