Knowing what to do after a tree stand injury can not only help save your life but also help your attorney secure the compensation you may need later on to overcome your injuries.
Call For Help
From a strict safety standpoint, carrying a mobile phone with you when you hunt is a potential life-saving connection. If you fall and have the presence of mind and body to call for help, do so immediately. If your stand collapses and you are suspended in a tree, easy access to a mobile phone may be essential to prevent the quick onset of suspension trauma.
Once you have summoned help, the next steps are largely dependent on your physical condition.
Attend To Your Injuries
First and foremost, attend to your injuries. Make sure you fully describe your injuries and pains to all medical personnel. Make a point, if possible, to note that your stand “collapsed” or “failed” rather than “I fell from a tree stand.” The latter description suggests user error rather than a defect in the stand itself.
Alert Friends, Fellow Hunters and Loved Ones
One should always alert friends, fellow hunters and loved ones of your position when hunting. Make sure to tell them your expected time of return as well. A significantly injured hunter may not have the physical capacity to summon help. Friends and family may not realize you need help for hours, especially if you have left no expected time of return.
Fully Document the Scene
Either you or someone you designate should fully document the scene. Photographs of the immediate after-accident condition of the scene are vital. This includes the tree to which the stand was erected. There is no such thing as too many photographs from too many angles. Write down anything you remember about what happened or saw during the accident. This will ensure you don’t forget or confuse the facts.
Secure the Stand
Secure the stand in its condition immediately following the failure. Do not attempt to repair it, clean it or otherwise change its condition in any fashion. Changes to the product can result in an allegation of “spoliation of evidence.” In other words, do nothing, however innocent, to change the condition of the evidence.
Do Not Alter Anything
Do not alter the scene of the fall, the condition of the tree or stand or the damage to clothing. Preserve blood stained clothing. It may give some indication of how someone landed and what portions of the body struck first.
Store the Stand
Properly secure and store the product. Preserve it in its immediate, after-fall condition. Attempt no repairs, reconstructions, cleaning or other changes to the scene or the stand.
If the stand is new enough that you still have product packaging (e.g. boxes, literature) keep those as well.
Watch What You Say
It is common for game wardens or wildlife authorities to do an investigation. Again, if the product failed, this needs to be noted. Wildlife authorities are frequently allegiant to product manufacturers. In short, many are of a mindset that injuries only happen due to user or hunter error. Be careful of what you say. Take the time to consult with an attorney, if you have access to one, before speaking with law enforcement authorities.
Avoid Speaking About the Accident
It is best to avoid speaking about the accident on social media, to any insurance companies or representative of the manufacturer without your attorney present. A single statement taken out of context can eliminate the potential you have to recover compensation.
Obtain All Documentation
Be sure to keep record of all medical treatment and accident related expenses to give to your attorney. Your attorney can use any documentation related to the incident to substantiate the cause of your injuries.