I have just fallen from my elevated tree stand! I have just been shot by my hunting partner! These are two examples of exclamations we never want to hear. However, even when all due care is exercised by a hunter, one can still be a victim of hunting injury. Moreover, not all hunting accidents are the fault of another hunter, or even self-inflicted. Many hunting injuries, some of the most serious and catastrophic variety, are preventable, and can be attributed to either another hunter or to some defect in the hunting product in use.
If you are injured while hunting, here are the important questions to consider:
Was my injury the result of some use of a hunting product?
There are a host of hunting products that have demonstrated a propensity for failure or defect leading to serious personal injury. Was one of these products the instrumentality of your injury? Were you using an elevated tree stand? If so, did some part break, bend or deform in such a way that your injury ensued? Even some “safety devices” such as harnesses used to prevent falls, can result in serious injury or death.
Clearly, firearms can inflict catastrophic injuries or death. Did the firearm fire even though someone did not pull the trigger? Was it dropped? Did the barrel deform or explode upon firing? Did the firearm in any other respect misfire?
If any of the answers above are “yes”, further investigation into the history of the subject product is warranted. Although firearms are completely unregulated, any other product may have been discussed in materials from the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which has some oversight for all consumer products. Online research into product recalls, or for lawsuits that sound like your circumstances, may be revealing. Of course, consultation with an attorney who has expertise in similar cases can answer these questions, and give you insight into the prospects of a claim or lawsuit.
Was some other person in control of the circumstances that lead to my injury?
Even if a product is involved, who was in control of that product at the moment it failed? Who erected or secured the tree stand? Who was handling the firearm? Frequently, homeowner’s insurance will cover the negligent hunting acts of individuals that result in personal injury or death. While this can lead to some uncomfortable situations, as the claim or lawsuit must be pursued against the individual, not the insurance company, the insurance company will pay for the negligent party to have an attorney, and in most instances, will pay all or a portion of the damages that you can prove in any lawsuit.
Was there some defect or condition in the property where the hunt occurred?
While most natural conditions of the land are not the fault or responsibility of a landowner, some may impose responsibility on a landowner who is aware of a dangerous condition on the land that would not be apparent to a casual user. Again, most such claims will ultimately be paid by a homeowner’s insurance company. Where there is a dangerous condition on land, owned by an individual with knowledge of a particular dangerous condition, a claim can be made.
Did the injury occur because someone used a product without any knowledge of how to properly avoid latent hazards?
No one knows more about a product than the company that designed and manufactured it. While some products come with clear hazards, even in these cases, the product manufacturer is in the best position to explain and instruct a user on the degree of such hazards and the best plan for avoidance. For example, a firearm can clearly inflict serious injuries or death, but do all users of firearms fully appreciate that some firearms have a history of firing even when the trigger is not pulled? Ask yourself, or the person in control, what happened, and did you know such an event could occur? If there is doubt, a review of product literature or the owner’s manual may reveal the extent of information that was revealed, and further cast light on what additional information would have assisted the product user to avoid danger.
Any time you are injured because of a hunting accident, the best thing you can do is consult an attorney with experience in these types of cases. They can review the information and ensure you take the right course of action for recovery.