There are several different common types of hunting accidents. Typically, they involve a firearm or an arrow.
In addition, hunting accidents often fall into one of three categories, including:
- Accidental discharge of a weapon and shooting another individual,
- Shooting at a target, missing, and shooting another individual, or
- Mistaking another individual as a wild animal and shooting them.
Can I Argue that I Had No Intention of Hitting the Other Person?
If an individual was specifically aiming and attempting to hit a wild animal, they cannot argue they had no intention of hitting the other individual. Even though the perpetrator did not intend to hit the other individual, they did intend to hit something.
Under civil laws, the intention to hit a target may be transferred from one target to another target. Under criminal laws, if there was a death, the prosecution would bypass the issue of intention by arguing that the defendant was criminally negligent by having a disregard for life, for example, manslaughter.
If no death occurred, the intention makes criminal charges much less viable.
Are There Any Defenses if I Face Civil Liability for a Hunting Accident?
There are two categories of claims in civil hunting accident cases, intentional and negligent. If an individual is being sued for a hunting accident and there was no death, the claims may include assault or battery.
Both assault and battery claims are claims of an intentional act. If a death did occur, a wrongful death claim may be imminent.
A wrongful death claim may either be intentional or negligence. There are some states that permit strict liability claims based on the argument that firearms are dangerous instruments no matter how careful the user was with it.
What Are Some Common Defenses to Claims of Intention?
The best possible defense against intentional claims is to argue that there was no purpose or knowledge of a shooting. It is important to note, however, that this defense would be difficult to use if a hunt was in progress, as the purpose of participating in a hunt is to shoot something.
The only relevant intention is the defendant’s intent to use the weapon for the purpose of hitting a target. Another issue that may be disputed is causation.
Causation is whether or not the defendant was actually the cause of the injury. This defense may only be successful, however, when the victim is injured by an individual or thing other than the defendant.
If a victim was shot by two individuals at the same time and it is unclear who actually injured the victim, both of the individuals would be liable for the victim’s injuries. If a defendant is able to prove exactly who hit the victim, then only the defendant who actually hit the victim would be held liable.
What Are Defenses to Negligence?
Negligence is a claim that the defendant was careless under the circumstances. It would seem fairly obvious when a defendant hits an individual when they meant to hit a wild animal.
The issue of negligence, however, is based on the reasonable person standard. This means that the carelessness of the defendant is measured against the carelessness of a reasonable individual.
This standard may be slightly modified, however, to accommodate the defendant’s experience with the weapon in question. Similar to an intentional claim, causation may also be argued.
Negligence adds a lawyer of causation that is not found in an intentional claim. In order for a defendant to be held liable for negligence, the individual’s injuries have to be foreseeable or be a direct result of the actions of the defendant.
A defendant may also be able to argue that the victim assumed the risk of being shot at. Assumption of the risk can only be used as a defense, however, if the victim knew the area was a popular spot for hunting.
What Are Some Defenses to Strict Liability?
Strict liability is the claim that the defendant is responsible for an injury simply because they were hunting due to the fact that the use of a firearm itself is dangerous to life. This is the hardest type of personal injury claim to defend against.
Strict liability is only applied when an activity is declared strictly liable under state laws. This means that the number of strict liability claims may be restricted in certain states.
How Is Contributory Negligence Determined?
Any personal injury claim can be defended against by arguing that an individual contributed to their own injury by being careless. Depending on the jurisdiction, contributory negligence may be a complete defense against liability or it may lower the amount of compensation awarded to the plaintiff.
Can I Face Any Criminal Liability for a Hunting Accident? What Are the Legal Consequences?
The majority of states separate hunting accidents into two categories when determining punishment, ones where no death occurs and ones where death occurs. If the victim of a hunting accident does not pass away, some states have specific requirements that an individual must follow, including:
- Providing their name to the victim,
- Giving the victim assistance, including taking them to the hospital, and
- Reporting the accident to the appropriate government agencies.
If an individual accidentally shoots another individual in a hunting accident and fails to follow those steps, it may result in:
- Fines of around $5,000 to $10,000;
- Jail time, typically not more than one year, or
- A combination of both.
If a victim of a hunting accident dies, the perpetrator will be subject to general homicide principles. The majority of cases lead to a conviction of one of the following:
Are There Any Legal Defenses if I Face Civil Liability for a Hunting Accident?
If a hunting accident does not result in a death, the chance of criminal liability decreases. Criminal laws require that both an action and a specific mental state must be present before an individual can be charged under a penal code, or a state law where criminal laws are listed.
This is one area of law where intention plays an important role. The punishment is more likely to be given for a non-fatal hunting accident or for failure to provide proper assistance to a victim.
If a hunting accident results in death, a state may bring charges of involuntary manslaughter based on criminal negligence. Criminal negligence arises when a defendant has very little regard for the safety of others.
In contrast to civil negligence, the defendant must have acted with the knowledge that their conduct could result in the injury of another individual. Murder charges are a remote possibility but are unlikely because most courts require that the defendant had malicious intention, or a desire to harm others, before the charge of murder can be used.
Criminal laws have higher standards than civil laws. This means it would not be unusual for a defendant not to face criminal charges but be found liable for civil damages.
Do I Need an Attorney if I am Involved in a Hunting Accident?
If you injured another individual in a hunting accident, it is essential to consult with a criminal lawyer. Your lawyer can defend you in court and ensure that your rights are protected. These types of cases can be complex, but an attorney can guide you through the process.