We’re well into the 2015 hunting season here in Minnesota – one that unfortunately got off to a bad start with several accidents and two fatalities occurring just in the opening weekend of deer season alone. As a big hunting state, it’s important for all Minnesotan, whether you hunt or not, to know that being injured in a hunting accident, or gun malfunction incident, may qualify you to file a lawsuit in order to be compensated for your loss.

Minnesota: Hunting accidents happen

While there is no shortage of articles online proclaiming that hunting is safer than commonly believed, hunting accidents and gun malfunctions are a reality. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 15% of the gunshot wound injuries and deaths are caused by gun accidents.

While two of this year’s opening weekend accidents were self-inflicted: a 63-year-old man, who non-fatally shot himself in the leg in St. Louis County, and a 69-year-old hunter from Nowthen, who was found dead in a deer stand with a gunshot wound to the chest, one of the incidents – a 50-year-old Laporte man, who was fatally shot as he came out of his hunting area 16 miles southeast of Mahnomen – is currently under investigation. And there have been more hunting season accidents in Minnesota since.

When to sue

Of course some accidents really are just accidents. And some discharges truly are accidental. The law distinguishes these accidental discharges from negligent ones. For example if a hunter is trained, being careful and doing everything he/she should be, but trips over a concealed rock or root, falls, and the gun goes off and hits someone in the shoulder, that’s an accidental discharge and there really isn’t a case there. But if there’s evidence that shows that through another person’s negligence, inattention, carelessness, or recklessness, the gun discharges, harming another, that’s when a case can be made.

A negligent discharge occurs if a shooter wasn’t properly trained or taking proper precautions. In this case they were unreasonably placing others at risk of harm. Failing to have the proper training/license, handing a gun while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, goofing around, or just handling the firearm carelessly in general are all examples of negligent behavior.

There’s also a distinction made for when the firearm itself is defective. If this can be shown than you may be able to file what’s called a product liability suit against the manufacturer and/or dealer.

Ten firearms safety tips

Although you can’t control what others do, staying safe while hunting begins with following proper gun safety. Ten rules of safe gun handling, according to National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) are:

Always keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction.
Firearms should be unloaded when not actually in use.
Don’t rely on your gun’s “safety”.
Be sure of your target and what’s beyond it.
Use correct ammunition.
If your gun fails to fire when the trigger is pulled, handle with care.
Always wear eye and ear protection when shooting.
Be sure the barrel is clear of obstructions before shooting.
Don’t alter or modify your gun, and have guns serviced regularly.
Learn the mechanical and handling characteristics of the firearm you are using.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a hunting accident, or by a firearm malfunction, due to someone else’s negligence, you may qualify to file a personal injury or wrongful death case. Contact Meshbesher & Spence immediately to discuss the details of your case. Our attorneys are here to ensure that you receive the compensation you deserve.