Hunting Accidents and Civil Liability

Hunting is a time-honored outdoor tradition, cherished by many as a means of connecting with nature and providing sustenance. However, it comes with inherent risks, as even the most experienced hunters can attest.

Whether it’s a firearm-related incident or a tree stand mishap, hunting accidents can occur in the blink of an eye and have the potential to change lives forever. 

Types of Hunting Accidents

Hunting accidents can occur in various ways, falling into different categories based on their nature and causes. 

  • Accidental Discharge: These incidents are often the result of mishandling firearms or failing to follow proper safety protocols. These accidents can happen when the trigger is unintentionally pulled or when the firearm malfunctions. In some cases, hunters may forget to engage the safety mechanism, leading to an accidental discharge.
  • Missing Targets: Hunting accidents occur when the hunter’s aim is off or they misjudge the distance. Errant shots can hit unintended targets such as other hunters or nearby structures, posing a significant risk to others.
  • Mistaken Targets: When hunters misidentify their target, often it’s due to their mistaking a person for a wild animal. Tragic accidents can happen when the hunter fails to properly assess the surroundings and doesn’t take the time to correctly identify the target.

Eighty percent of all firearm incidents occur within 10 yards of muzzle. [1]

Types of Hunting Accidents

Understanding Civil Liability

In the context of hunting accidents, civil liability arises when someone is injured, or their property is damaged as a result of another individual’s negligence or intentional misconduct during a hunting activity.

Hunters are expected to exercise reasonable caution and adhere to established safety guidelines to prevent accidents. Failure to do so may result in civil liability, where the injured party can seek compensation for their medical bills, property damage, and other related expenses.

Civil liability refers to accountability that individuals may face for their actions or omissions that cause harm to others. [2]

Who Can Be Held Liable for a Hunting Accident?

When a hunting accident occurs, determining who can be held liable for the injuries or damages that result can be complex. Liability can vary depending on local laws and the specific circumstances of the case.

In general, several parties may be held liable in a hunting accident.

  • Hunter: The hunters themselves can be held responsible if their actions were negligent or reckless.
  • Hunting Party: The hunting party as a whole may be held accountable for injuries and damages caused by their collective actions. This can include a range of individuals involved in the hunting trip, such as fellow hunters, guides, or organizers.
  • Property Owner: The property owner where the hunting takes place may be held liable if they fail to provide a safe environment or warn about any known hazards on their property. Property owners have a duty to keep their premises reasonably safe for visitors.
  • Manufacturer: The manufacturer of a defective firearm or hunting equipment may also be held liable if the accident was caused by a product defect. They have an obligation to ensure their products are safe for use.
Who Can Be Held Liable for a Hunting Accident?

What Are the Elements of a Negligence Claim?

To establish negligence in a hunting accident case, four key elements need to be proven: duty of care, breach of duty, causation, and damages.

  • Duty of Care: The defendant must owe a duty of care to the injured party. In hunting accidents, all participants must act responsibly, follow hunting regulations, and ensure the safety of themselves and others.
  • Breach of Duty: A breach of duty must be shown, meaning the defendant failed to exercise the level of care expected in the circumstances. This can include actions like mishandling a firearm, disregarding safety rules, or failing to warn about known hazards.
  • Causation: The breach of duty must be the direct cause of the accident. It must be demonstrated that the defendant’s negligent actions were the primary cause of the injury or damage sustained.
  • Damages: The injured party must have suffered actual damages as a result of the accident. This can include medical expenses, property damage, loss of income, pain and suffering, and other tangible or intangible losses.

To successfully establish a negligence claim in a hunting accident lawsuit, it is necessary to gather evidence, witness testimonies, accident reports, medical records, and other documentation that clearly demonstrates the elements of negligence.

What Damages Can Be Recovered in a Hunting Accident Lawsuit?

In a hunting accident lawsuit, victims may be entitled to recover various types of damages depending on the specific circumstances of the case. These damages aim to compensate the injured party for the losses and harm they have suffered:

  • Medical Expenses: This includes reimbursement for hospital bills, surgeries, medication, rehabilitation, and any other healthcare costs related to the injuries sustained in the hunting accident.
  • Lost Wages: Victims may be able to claim lost wages if their injuries prevent them from working during their recovery period. This compensation is designed to cover the income the victim would have earned if they had not been injured.
  • Emotional Damages: Hunting accidents can also result in emotional damages, such as pain and suffering, mental anguish, or loss of enjoyment of life. These non-economic damages are intended to provide compensation for the emotional toll caused by the accident.
  • Wrongful Death: In cases where a hunting accident leads to the wrongful death of an individual, their surviving family members may be able to seek damages through a wrongful death claim. These damages typically cover funeral and burial expenses, loss of financial support, and compensation for the emotional impact of losing a loved one.

Specific damages recoverable in a hunting accident lawsuit may vary depending on the laws and regulations of the jurisdiction where the incident occurred.

What Damages Can Be Recovered in a Hunting Accident Lawsuit?

Hunting Accidents Can Have a Devastating Impact on Victims and Their Families.

In addition to the physical and emotional pain and suffering, victims of hunting accidents may also face significant financial losses.

If you or someone you know has been injured in a hunting accident, you may be wondering if you have legal recourse. If this is you, contact Goldberg & Loren today to schedule a free consultation. 


[1] Hunting Incidents. (n.d.). Hunter Ed.

[2] civil liability. (n.d.). LII / Legal Information Institute.

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