Liability insurance for hunting leases is a standard part of offering land to hunting clubs, outfitters, or individual hunters. Landowners can purchase liability insurance themselves; they can require lessees to purchase insurance; they can even double the coverage by making sure both parties have insurance in place.
Organizations like the American Hunting Lease Association recommend that no hunting lease agreement be entered without the insurance question settled. Furthermore, property owners should never lease lands without some form of liability insurance in place. There are too many risks involved to lease land without adequate insurance.
As a landowner looking to lease your property, you need to make sure you are protected against liability issues. Here are the top three reasons to have liability insurance for hunting leases:
1. A Highly Litigious Culture
It goes without saying that the U.S. is one of the most litigious countries in the world. Because of our love for civil lawsuits, we have a culture that actually looks for opportunities to sue rather than merely reacting to situations that might merit litigation.
How litigious are we? Data from 2016 shows that the annual cost of civil litigation to our total economy is nearly $240 billion. That breaks down to a per-person cost of roughly $812 annually. In terms of the actual court cases themselves, 48% are won by plaintiffs. Monetary damages are awarded in 84% of those cases.
Lastly, one final statistic really says it all: 79% of adults familiar with personal injury lawsuits belief that advertising by attorneys encourages people to sue even if they have not been injured. As a landowner, you are just one trip and fall away from a potential civil suit.
2. ‘Could or Should Have Known’
The number two reason for having liability insurance in place flows directly from the first. It can be encapsulated in a rather common phrase often bandied about in civil lawsuits: ‘could or should have known’.
In order to justify civil lawsuits for personal injury, attorneys often phrase their accusations to imply or outright state that defendants ‘could or should have known’ of the potential dangers of whatever injured the plaintiff. As a landowner, a case against you could be based on the assertion that you could or should have known there was a sizable depression in one of your fields that might lead to a hunter falling and breaking a leg.
The whole idea behind such phrasing is to remove the responsibility of the plaintiff to watch out for his own well-being and place it on the landowner instead. And because the concept of ‘could or should have known’ is so vague, it is very hard to defend against. Landowners need liability insurance to protect themselves from such claims.
3. Liability Covers More Than Injuries
Finally, good liability insurance for hunting leases covers more than just injuries that hunters and their guests may sustain while on your property. It also deals with liability for property damage. Sadly, property damage is part of the game for hunting leases.
Some hunters cause damage through honest ignorance and/or accidents and mistakes. However, there are others who damage property simply because they do not care about conservation or proper land management. At any rate, property damage has to be paid for.
It is unfortunate that liability is such a big issue in our legal system. But it is what it is, and it is not likely to change any time soon. Therefore, it is simply unwise to lease land to hunters without adequate liability insurance in place.