3003 Lakeland Cove, Suite E.  |  Jackson, MS 39232  |  601-420-2200

MASSEY, HIGGINBOTHAM, VISE, AND PHILLIPS, P.A.

Safety should be No. 1 for hunting clubs – minimizing legal liability

by Mike Massey on January 20, 2012

Hunting Related Accidents in Mississippi

In Mississippi between 1998 and 2000 there were 71 hunting related accidents reported by the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks (MDWFP) in a two year study. Of the 71 incidents, 35 involved accidental shootings of another person while 11 were self-inflicted.  The remaining 25 accidents involved the use of tree stands with 8 occurring in 1998-99 and 17 in 1999-00.

MDWFP began tracking tree stand accidents several years ago. In the first reporting year, 19 accidents were reported. These ranged from poorly secured stands, to steps coming loose, to carelessness like slipping on the steps or falling asleep.  From July, 1999 through June, 2000, MDWFP investigated around 23 separate shooting accidents, 8 of which were fatal. That compares to 23 accidents with 4 fatalities from July, 1998 through June, 1999.  There were also several fatalities attributed to tree stand accidents over the past year.

Is Your Hunting Club Prepared?

This should get your hunting club officers thinking, what happens in the event that one of your members or guests get hurt on the club’s premises, or worse yet, shot during a hunt?  It’s possible that the injured person or his family might ask the club to pay the medical bills, along with compensation for his pain and suffering, especially if the accident or mishap is due to someone else’s carelessness or negligence?  What if your club is unincorporated and his no insurance? Who pays?

Safety Is the Top Concern

The only sure way to protect against legal liability is to prevent accidents from happening in the first place.  It is impossible to overemphasize safety issues in hunting clubs.  Safety should be made a top priority, if not the top priority in every hunting club. Unfortunately, safety is a topic that many hunters don’t want to think about, much less discuss. Many hunters think they are extremely safe and cautious and that they will never be involved in an accident or mishap.

Things To Do

Some typical causes of accidents in hunting clubs are due to poor maintenance, the cabin or shanty with the broken steps or rails or the improperly-secured stand.  The three or four people skinning a deer, each with a sharp knife, and multiple fingers within cutting range.  The old homemade bridges you have to cross to get to your favorite stand, that old wooden tree stand with the creaking boards and missing ladder rungs.  It only takes a little time to repair these items or exercise a little caution versus being held liable for accidents caused by ill-repair. Other causes of accidents include the mixture of alcohol and guns, the absence or non-enforcement of club rules, and/or failure to abide by the safety laws set out by the state.

Some of the specific things to do include:

  • Inventory the structures on the property each year and check for safety concerns
  • Document status of structures (i.e. stands) and any repairs made annually
  • Create and enforce rules to ensure the safety of members
  • Post your rules in a visible location
  • Form a corporation or LLC to provide members legal liability protection
  • Have annual clean up days to remove potential dangers
  • Obtain liability insurance
  • Consider having members and guests sign waivers

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