What are the laws governing accident liability on private hunting grounds?

Hunting on private grounds is one luxury afforded to landowners in West Virginia. But those who wish to hunt on private hunting grounds—such as a neighbor, friend or others—must obtain not only a license but also permission from the property owner. Owners who wish to keep others off the land should post notices at 500 foot intervals.

What West Virginia laws govern hunting accidents on private grounds?

Of course, many fear that allowing others to hunt on one's private property could open the owner up to the risk of liability if someone is injured in a hunting accident; not only in a shooting accident but other types of hunting accidents, such as someone falling out of a tree stand.

But, in general, if landowners allow others to use their private property for recreational purposes without charging a fee, they can’t be liable for someone’s injuries. In fact, there is no duty of care to warn those who use the property of a known, obvious hazard, though they may have to warn of hidden dangers.

In fact, the person who accesses private hunting grounds is essentially a trespasser, even though the landowner granted permission to use the land for recreational use. Just as in most cases landowners can’t be liable for a trespasser’s injuries, they are not liable if they charge no fees for use of the property.

When can a landowner be liable for injuries on private hunting grounds?

Once a landowner charges a fee for others to hunt on the land, those individuals are now invitees. Therefore, a duty of care exists to correct hazardous conditions or post appropriate warnings.

Only injuries caused by a failure to provide adequate duty of care are a landowner’s responsibility. Some accidents, such as a hunter accidentally shooting him/herself wouldn’t be the owner's fault.

If you were injured while hunting – whether on private or public grounds – and are unsure if another party is liable, contact The Miley Legal Group for legal representation.

Tim Miley
Injury Lawyer, Author, & Owner of The Miley Legal Group