Hunting season is coming up, and this means millions of West Virginians will soon be out braving the elements to pursue all types of game. We hunt to bond with family and friends, to enjoy the great outdoors, and to (hopefully) bag some game to bring home and cook up. And when we go out, we hope and expect that everyone will follow the proper safety procedures, so we can all get home safely.
Most of the time, we all make it back from our hunting trips unscathed. However, there is always a chance of something going wrong and someone being injured in a hunting accident. This can happen for a number of reasons, some of the most common include:
- Misfire/Shooting Accidents: Accidental shootings where one hunter fires the gun in the wrong direction or fires the gun without meaning to and hits another hunter is the one most people think of when they hear the word “hunting accident”. These types of accidents can occur because of miscommunication between the hunters, carelessness or recklessness (sometimes related to alcohol), stray bullets from other hunting parties, and weapon defects/malfunctions.
- Slips and Falls: Hunters frequently have to cover some rough terrain and often in adverse weather conditions. This alone increases the likelihood of slips, trips, and falls. Sometimes there are additional hazards, however, such as broken-down fences and other types of debris that may be covered by brush and difficult to see. Broken-down and/or poorly maintained tree stands is another major hazard that hunters need to be careful of (more on this later). Property owners have a responsibility to take reasonable measures to warn hunters of any potential dangers on their land.
- Tree Stand Accidents: Those who do not hunt may be surprised to learn that tree stand accidents are the leading cause of hunting accident injuries and fatalities in the U.S. and Canada. Back in 2015, the Mayo Clinic reported on a study done by the International Hunter Education Association (IHEA) which found that 300-500 hunters are killed and approximately 6,000 hunters are permanently injured in tree stand accidents annually. The study went on to say the one out of every three hunters who use a tree stand will experience a fall at some point during their hunting career.
What to Do Immediately After a Hunting Accident
If you have followed all the appropriate safety rules and procedures but still end up in an accident, there are some things you should do right away to make sure you and anyone else that may be hurt is properly treated and that your rights are protected:
Seek Medical Attention Immediately
The first priority after a hunting accident is to make sure everyone is okay. With some types of accidents (such as when a tree stand collapses) several people could be injured. Call 911 right away so a medical team can be quickly dispatched to your location. If you are in a remote area, it might take a while for medical help to arrive, so make the call as soon as you are able.
Take Multiple Photos of the Incident
Assuming you are physically able, take as many photos of the accident scene as possible. The more photo documentation you have, the better you will be able to remember what happened later on. And if legal action ever becomes necessary, photos are among the best forms of evidence to help show exactly how the accident occurred.
Write a Report of What Happened
If you have access to a pencil/pen and piece of paper, write down in as much detail as you are able what happened. It is best to document the incident as soon as possible after it occurs, so the events are fresh in your mind. If you do not have a writing utensil handy, you should be able to use the voice recorder on your smartphone.
Speak to Witnesses about the Incident
If anyone in your hunting party saw what happened, talk to them right away and record their statements. Again, it is best to get the statements of witnesses while everything is fresh in their minds.
Speak to a Skilled Personal Injury Lawyer
If you were seriously injured or a loved one was killed in a hunting accident, it would be in your best interests to contact an experienced accident injury attorney, so you fully understand your rights and options. Depending on the specific circumstances, another party may very well be responsible for your injuries. Possible at-fault parties may include another hunter, the landowner, the weapon manufacturer, or another third-party.
At Bailey, Javins, and Carter, we know that hunting is deeply embedded in our West Virginia culture, and we fully support and embrace it. However, when someone is injured or killed because of someone else’s negligence, we work hard to ensure that they receive just compensation. We have successfully represented countless accident injury victims over the years, including many who have suffered serious injury or fatality in a hunting accident.