Hunting Exposures on Owned & Vacant Land

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Hunters Beware Article Photo Hunting accidents on vacant land can lead to a number of legal liability concerns. Hunting accidents are among the most common bodily injury risks to be found on secondary, seasonal, vacant or otherwise non-primary owned property. Clients with vacant land or farm land with exposures to third-party hunters should take a variety of measures to mitigate their exposure. Property owners and hunters alike should consider the following when creating a risk management plan to protect guests and property owners that face this specific risk exposure.

You may have a liability exposure to an outside party getting hurt on your property due to a hunting incident. If you do not want any hunting activity on your land, make your presence known on this property. For example, hunters will often scout potential land prior to hunting season, and they will often leave survey tape and markers so they can remember where they were scouting. If you remove their signs, they will notice that you are paying attention and do not wish to have them on your land. Also, you should post numerous "No trespassing" signs on your property. In addition, the signs should be posted prominently at all road entrances and along any public roads that your property borders.

Some land owners may lease their land for hunting. The main benefit with this approach (besides your revenue from the arrangement) is that you can control who hunts and by what rules they must abide. But this opens you up for increased liability because the hunters on your land are now invitees, rather than trespassers. The duty of care that you owe an invitee is typically greater than that owed to a trespasser. This approach also negates coverage under your homeowners policy and umbrella policy since you are earning money on this land, creating a business exposure often excluded under personal lines policies.

Thus, if you decide to lease your land to a private party, you should verify that every hunter signs a lease agreement that includes a hold harmless clause. In addition, you will need to purchase a general liability policy to cover your business exposure since many homeowners, farm owners, and personal umbrella policies exclude this exposure.

A different approach may be to sign a lease agreement with a hunting club and to verify that the club has a hunt lease insurance program holding you harmless. In addition, you should obtain a copy of the policy and get listed as an additional insured under that policy. The hunting club and the hunters should have a minimum of $1 million in liability limits. Group policies for hunting clubs are also available to protect hunting groups of all sizes – while hunting on a lease or non-owned property.

And don’t forget, it’s not just guns that carry personal liability risks; hunters with dogs, ATVs, watercraft and other hunting equipment & structures like tree blinds and feeders should also discuss these exposures with their agent.