According to Outdoor Alabama, more than 238,000 people hunt in Alabama in any given year. While hunting is actually much more safe than people think, there are many injuries from hunting accidents every year, some of which are fatal.
In this blog post, we will discuss the common types of injuries and accidents that occur while hunting. In addition, we will cover the Alabama laws that apply to these situations, including laws that allow some victims of hunting accidents to recover compensation in certain situations.
Most Common Type of Injuries from Hunting Accidents
There are three categories of hunting accidents that mostly commonly lead to injury or death:
- Tree Stand Accidents
- Firearm-related Accidents
- Tripping or falling due to terrain or other unforeseen hazards
We will discuss each of these in order, starting with the most common type of accident:
1. Tree Stand Accidents
It may surprise you, but tree stands are much more dangerous to hunters than guns or crossbows. According to Deer Hunting Guide, approximately 6,000 hunters are injured every year due to falls from tree stands. In addition, approximately 80% of these falls occur when the hunter is ascending or descending the stand.
Here’s some other important statistics about falls from tree stands according to a Tree Stand Safety Study:
- On average, approximately 400 of these 6,000 falls (6.6%) result in fatal injuries.
- The most common type of injury is a spine fracture
- 58% of the hunters who fell were not wearing a fall-arrest system (i.e. harness)
- The most common type of tree stand involved in these falls was a self-climbing stand
- 21% of the falls were due to a structural failure of the tree stand
In Alabama, if you suffer an injury due a tree stand accident, you may have a claim against the tree stand manufacturer if you can prove the tree stand was defective. To win such a claim, it is extremely important to preserve the tree stand in the same or similar condition because it must be inspected by an expert witness such as a safety engineer. If your lawyer can gather the evidence and find an expert who believes the tree stand was defective, a claim can be pursued under the Alabama Extended Manufacturers’ Liability Doctrine (“AEMLD.”)
In the alternative, if someone else installed/erected the tree stand negligently, you could have a claim against that person for monetary damages. The general rules of negligence apply in such a situation. You would have to prove that the responsible person had a duty to erect the tree stand in a reasonable manner, that the tree stand was not erected properly, and that this caused your injuries. If the at-fault person has homeowner’s insurance coverage, you can pursue a claim seeking compensation from the homeowner’s insurance carrier.
2. Firearm Accidents
Firearm accidents leading to injury or death while hunting are less frequent than one might expect. For example, according to Outdoor Alabama, there were no gun-related hunting fatalities during the 2021-2022 and 2022-2023 hunting seasons in Alabama.
Nevertheless, the risk of injuries from gun-related hunting accidents still exists, with multiple such incidents occurring in the most recent hunting season. Most of these injuries were accidentally self-inflicted.
If the injury was due to the hunter’s own negligence, then the hunter will likely not be able to seek compensation from any source. However, if the injury or death was caused by the negligence of another hunter, then there would be a viable claim for compensation.
In Alabama, if a hunter is negligent in the operation of their firearm and causes injury to another, then the injured person can file a claim seeking compensation for:
- medical bills
- mental anguish
- loss of income
- loss of earning capacity; and
- permanent injury
If the negligent person has homeowners’ or renters’ insurance, then that insurance carrier is responsible for paying the claim up to the extent of the limits of the policy. On the other hand, Alabama follows the contributory negligence doctrine, which means that if the injured person negligently contributed to his own injuries, he is barred from recovery. It is always best to speak with a personal injury lawyer for an evaluation in this instance.
3. Trips and Falls
One overlooked category in the record books is slips, trips, and falls that occur while hunting. When hunting, there can be uneven terrain, tripping hazards such as rocks and roots, and usually the lighting outside is dim. This all creates a risk of injuries due to slipping or tripping.
In Alabama, a property owner can be held responsible for injuries due to hazardous conditions. Therefore, if the injured person does not own the hunting land, the injured person might could make a claim against the property owner. The duty of a property owner depends on the reason why the injured person was on the property. We will cover those here:
- “Invitee” — if the property owner is financially benefited by inviting the hunter onto the land, then the property owner has his highest duty. He must keep the property in a reasonably safe fashion, to remedy known hazards that are not obvious, and to warn of dangerous conditions that are known or should be known to the property owner.
- “Licensee” — if the property owner is not making a profit from the hunter, then the property owner must only warn of conditions that are known to the property owner and not obvious.
- “Trespasser” — if the hunter is trespassing, he has little rights if he is injured in Alabama.
If there were injuries from a hunting accident and you believe it was due to the negligence of another person, of a tree stand manufacturer, or because you weren’t warned about a dangerous condition, contact us to discuss your rights.