Hunting accidents can be caused by a host of factors. Some are due to the carelessness or forgetfulness of the hunter, but many others are a result of defective products. In any given instance, one must look at several sources for responsibility.
Product manufacturers nearly always focus the inquiry on the hunter, or the person using the product. While there is frequently an element of hunter neglect, even where the hunter’s fault contributed to the incident, such fault is often a foreseeable consequence of the use of a defective product.
For example, when someone is shot by a defective firearm, such as one that fires when the trigger is not pulled, the nearly limitless set of circumstances where a bystander is shot at the instant the muzzle is pointed in an unsafe direction is increased exponentially. The following are the most common causes of hunting accidents based solely on legal experiences, and not because of any empirical study.
In this context, defective products are those that due to a defect in design or manufacture, fail in some way that results in injury. Design defects are those that are inherent with the product’s specifications even when properly assembled or manufactured. For example, a ladder stand for deer hunting may be properly manufactured or assembled by workers, but the engineer who designed the stand may have specified the wrong materials, failed to account for environmental demands, or included component parts that cannot support the weight of a hunter in a tree that cause the stand to collapse under reasonably foreseeable uses.
Manufacturing defects happen when a product is otherwise properly designed, but assembly is contrary to the design specifications. In either event, the consequence to the product user, here a hunter or bystander, is the same. A potential purchaser or user of a product may not know about product defects, as manufacturers certainly try to keep such incidents a secret from the buying public. Products other than firearms can be researched through the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission. Unfortunately, other than on line research, there are few methods to check the history of product defects in firearms.
Improper Instructions or Warnings
Products otherwise properly designed or manufactured may be nonetheless unsafe because they fail to properly educate or inform the product user of risks of use that are not otherwise well-known. Hence, a hunter when assembling a product may inadvertently do so improperly, because the instructions on assembly were lacking.
In other instances, a hunter may use a product without information on how the product can result in injury. Not all risks associated with use of a product are known to the casual product user or hunter. For example, tree stands nearly always advise hunters to use a safety harness to prevent falls from the stand. Many hunters are unaware that such harnesses carry their own risks of use. While the safety harness may prevent a fall from the ground, when a hunter is unable to regain access to the stand itself, the hunter may be left dangling from the tree. This situation can result in suspension trauma, a condition that can cause death in as little as 30 minutes. There are measures hunters can take to protect against circumstances that can lead to suspension trauma, but not all hunters are aware of these risks and the attendant precautions.
Hunter or User Neglect
Certainly, despite all due care exercised by product manufacturers, some hunters are simply careless. Even in instances when a product is defective, there may still be an added element of neglect. While there may be no avenue for a claim when the neglect is primarily that of the same person who is injured, frequently the neglect is associated with someone with whom the injured party is hunting.
For example, a hunting partner may be shot by his buddy or companion. Such claims can be covered by homeowner’s policies, providing some method for compensation for the injured hunter. While many so-called “safety” rules formulated within the hunting industry have the ulterior motive of aiding product manufacturers in their own defense, many still represent good practices, and a violation of such “rules” may still form the basis for a good negligence claim. When choosing hunting partners, know who you are with, and make sure such people have demonstrated a history of safe practice. Never hunt with someone who is intoxicated.
Hunting is necessarily an activity that takes place outdoors where the hunter is exposed to a host of weather and terrain conditions. Some land has hazards that should simply be avoided, because footing, weather, or other natural conditions do not lend themselves to a safe hunt, especially as someone treks through the woods with a loaded firearm.
Trip hazards, crossing fence lines, crossing draws and creek beds, tree roots and overhangs, can all contribute to injury or enhance the potential for one of the three causes. Be familiar with the land where you are hunting. Prepare for weather conditions. Wear the proper clothing. In short, do all that you can to control and limit the inherent risks.
If you are injured because of a faulty hunting product, or a hunting accident, it is wise to contact an attorney for assistance with your case. They can review the situation to determine if you are due compensation.