According to the Pennsylvania Game Commission, hunting is safe and getting even safer.
Hunting–related shooting incidents have declined by nearly 80 percent since hunter education training began in Pennsylvania in 1959. (The Game Commission defines a hunting–related shooting incident – HRSI – as any occurrence when a person is harmed as the result of the discharge of a firearm or bow and arrow during actual hunting or fur-taking activities.) In 2019, there were 26 HRSIs reported to the state, four of which were fatal.
For individuals injured in sports shooting accidents, the damage can be devastating. Often, these incidents result from hunters ignoring basic safety rules or failing to take reasonable precautions to prevent injury. If you have suffered injuries because of someone else’s negligence, you may be able to recover compensation.
Hunting–Related Claims Based on Negligence
Negligence is the failure to use the ordinary care that a reasonably prudent and careful person under similar circumstances would exercise. A hunter who does not exercise reasonable care, resulting in harm to others, may be found negligent and held liable for damages. Some examples of negligence include:
- Accidents where a careless hunter does not pause sufficiently to identify their target before shooting at another person.
- Negligent supervision cases, where parents fail to adequately supervise a child learning to hunt with a weapon.
- Firing range accidents, where owners did not properly supervise customers and allowed horseplay, intoxication, or other dangerous activities.
Pennsylvania law requires hunters to take reasonable steps to protect people and property while they engage in hunting and fur-taking. This includes not engaging in hunting–related activities while under the influence of alcohol or another substance and not carrying loaded weapons in a vehicle. Showing that a hunter failed to follow these requirements may help establish negligence and liability. With over 50 years of combined experience, the hunting accident attorneys at Hall & Copetas are available to help.
Other Potential Bases for Legal Action
Besides shooting incidents, hunting injuries can happen in many other ways.
Pennsylvania’s Recreational Use of Land and Water Act (RULWA) limits landowners’ liability for personal injury and property damage if they make their land available to the public for recreation. However, property owners are not fully absolved from ordinary premises liability claims. If a property owner knows of a dangerous condition on the property, like a natural hazard or a vicious animal, they have a duty to warn people who come onto the land. A hunter who suffers injuries because of an undisclosed hazard known to the owner may still pursue a premises liability claim.
Occasionally, hunters and bystanders are injured when their weapons suddenly malfunction or misfire. Bows and rifles that are defective by design or which were improperly manufactured can be unreasonably dangerous. If you have suffered injuries due to a malfunctioning weapon, you may be able to bring product liability claims against the manufacturer and seller of the weapon.
Similarly, hunters can be injured because of improperly designed, defective, broken, or poorly maintained tree stands. In these cases, it may be possible to recover from the manufacturer, seller, property owner, or another party responsible for maintaining the stand.
Retain an Experienced Attorney
It takes skill and experience to identify a cause of action or potential source of compensation in some hunting injury cases. Sometimes a business owner, landowner, or manufacturer is partially or fully responsible. Sometimes a claim may be covered by homeowners insurance or a stand–alone hunting insurance policy. In some cases, it may be advantageous to pursue your claims in state or federal court. An attorney with experience handling hunting injury claims in Pennsylvania can evaluate the facts of your case and help you understand your options. Contact us to schedule your free consultation.