On November 15, the eagerly anticipated regular firearm season begins for hunters. Nationwide, over 16 million individuals hunt in any given year. Hunting participation in Michigan ranks third in the United States, with around 800,000 going to field annually. Hunting is a major boon to the state’s economy, bringing in over $2 billion dollars each year, largely coming from expenditures for hunting trips and hunting equipment.
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has found that hunting-related deaths and injuries have decreased steadily since 1988 when hunter education classes became mandatory for all first-time hunters born in 1960 or later. Injuries have also largely decreased over time, with fewer than two dozen accidents causing injury in each of the last five years. That said, caution and safe behaviors are urged during regular firearm season and all other hunting seasons throughout the year. Data on Michigan hunting accidents in 2015 show nearly 40% of the injuries occurred during firearms season in November.
Common Hunting Accidents in Michigan
Accidents involving firearms can result in life-threatening injuries, including head injuries, spinal injuries, and devastating internal injuries. Hunting accidents happen in a number of ways. There are single-party hunting accident, wherein the victim is a part of the same hunting party as the shooter. In two-party hunting accidents, a shooter in one group injures a hunter in a completely different hunting party.
Many hunting accidents occur due to careless handling of firearms. This is true for self-inflicted injuries, as well as those cause to other people. Common causes of shooting accidents while hunting include:
- shots fired unintentionally after losing control of a firearm, such as when a gun slips out of hands or off of the hunter’s lap. In these cases, the gun often goes off as the hunter scrambles to regain control of the firearm.
- victims moving into a hunter’s line of fire.
- hunters swinging on game.
- intoxicated members of a hunting party.
- failure of the hunter to identify his or her mark and mistaking another hunter for game.
- victims who are not in view of the shooter.
In keeping with negligence theories utilized in personal injury cases, the victim of a hunting accident must prove the shooter caused their injury out of negligent behavior. A hunter who fails to act in a safe and reasonable manner or is reckless with the use of his or her firearm will usually be found negligent, whether the accident was caused by a failure to adhere to safety standards or by intentional and unsafe actions.
Highest Hunting Risk Not Actually Related to Guns
Many people assume the highest risk for catastrophic injury or death in hunting comes from the presence of firearms, but that simply isn’t true. In fact, the National Shooting Sports Foundation is quick to point out that hunting with firearms is actually safer than almost every other sport and outdoor recreational activity. Only pool/billiards and camping are safer when measured by injuries per participant. There are more than 8,000 hunting accidents each year, and a huge majority of those accidents are caused by tree stands. Yes, you read that correctly. The most dangerous and deadly aspect of hunting is the tree stand, both as a result of unsafe design and/or improper use.
90% of hunters use a deer stand or tree stand at some point during their hunting years, and data indicates a majority of them will experience at least one hunting stand fall. With stands sitting many feet up in the air, a fall can leave a hunter with serious spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury, internal injuries, or broken bones. Worse yet, because many hunters engage in the activity alone, someone who falls and is terribly injured may not be found for hours or even days, thereby increasing the odds their injury may result in death or lifelong disability. In the case of a faulty or malfunctioning tree stand, the maker of the product may be held liable for an injury to a hunter. If a hunter dies as a result of a fall from a tree stand, the family may seek compensation for their loss in a wrongful death lawsuit.
Of course, product liability can also apply to the firearm or other hunting implement itself. Faulty design, engineering, or construction of a firearm can be deadly for the hunter who uses it. Not even two years ago, Remington was forced to replace triggers in nearly 8 million Model 700 rifles. The class action suit against the gun manufacturer alleged at least two dozen deaths and over a hundred serious injuries occurred when the Remington 700 rifles discharged without being fired. In that case, documents going back over 50 years showed the original engineer had a concern about potential hazards related to accidental discharge of the guns. In an interview with CNBC in 2010, the engineer, Merle Walker, claimed that Remington rejected his proposal for replacing potentially dangerous triggers based on cost. The plan Remington eventually was forced to undertake in 2014 was similar to Walker’s 1948 proposal.
Michigan Hunting Accident Lawyers at the Lee Steinberg Law Firm
Whether you or someone you know was injured in a hunting accident caused by another person’s negligence or recklessness or by faulty equipment, the hunting accident attorneys at the Lee Steinberg Law Firm are at your service. We have decades of experience with product liability cases related to hunting equipment. We also have spent our lives fighting for victims who have been injured as a result of the wrongdoing of another person. For us, it really is about ensuring the hunters of Michigan are safe from harm while engaging in their favorite hobby, and if they are injured, we want them to know we’re here to represent them in their personal injury claim.
If you have lost someone you love in a hunting accident, you may have a wrongful death claim. A wrongful death claim holds the responsible party accountable for negligence resulting in death and can ease the financial burdens of a family who is grieving for a lost family member. If a hunting accident has impacted your family, call us today for a completely free consultation: 1-800-LEE-FREE.