Summer is almost here and many of us are already planning our outdoor expeditions. Safety first is the rule for any hiking or camping trip, but unfortunately not all backcountry injuries can be avoided.
So what happens if you're injured while hiking or camping this summer? If the injuries weren't your fault, could someone else be liable?
If you're injured while part of a tour group or organized expedition, you may have a claim against the tour company. A couple years ago, a teen was swept out to sea by a rogue wave while part of a kayaking and hiking tour in Hawaii. As it turned out, the tour company didn't have a permit to access the tidal pool area where the wave hit, and the teen's parents sued the company, believing the company's negligence led to their son's death.
In order to prove negligence against a hiking or camping tour company, you would need to show that the company owed you a duty of care, that they breached the duty, and that the breach was the proximate (foreseeable) cause of your injuries.
State and National Parks
Most of us will do our hiking and camping in state or national parks, like Yosemite in California, Yellowstone in Wyoming, the Great Smoky Mountains in North Carolina, or Glacier National Park in Montana. National parks are operated and maintained by the National Park Service. So what happens if you're injured while hiking or camping in a national park?
In general, property owners are responsible for maintaining a safe environment for invitees and must exercise reasonable care for the safety of visitors. However, for a long time government entities were protected under "sovereign immunity," which prohibited premises liability lawsuits against the government. That changed with the Federal Tort Claims Act which allows injury lawsuits against the federal government.
The FTCA has strict guidelines regarding how a claim against the government can be filed and when. You may want to consult with an experienced injury attorney to make sure you're complying with any local, state, or federal filing rules.