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common campground injuries and camping laws in Michigan

Who is Liable for Campground Injuries?

July 13, 2020

The coronavirus pandemic has changed everything about our lives, and summer vacation is no exception. Still, it’s summer, and many of us are craving an escape after spending months under quarantine. While we may be reluctant to get on a plane or take a long road trip, a family camping trip sounds like the ideal solution. However, camping is not without its hazards. The coronavirus notwithstanding, campers can suffer serious consequences from other common campground injuries. And, if you or a family member is hurt, who is responsible? Furthermore, if you sign a campground liability waiver, can you still sue for damages? Here’s what you need to know about staying safe and protecting your rights while you enjoy the great outdoors.

Is camping safe?

A group of Michigan public health experts were asked to rate the riskiness of 36 activities based on various safety factors relating to the coronavirus. They agreed the safest activities are those that take place outdoors and allow for social distancing. Therefore, the riskiest activities were going to bars, gyms, amusement parks and attending large events. The public health professionals rated camping as relatively low-risk, as long as recommended safety precautions are observed. These include limiting your group to members of your household and wearing masks and practicing social distancing when around other people.

However, campers can suffer harm in other ways, such as accidental campground injuries. Some camping accidents can cause severe consequences that include broken bones, burns, brain damage and other serious injuries to the head, neck, back or eyes. Some accidents, such as a tree falling on a tent, can even result in death.

Who is liable for campground injuries?

When someone is seriously injured while camping, determining who is responsible can be tricky. Like all Michigan property owners, campground owners and operators have a duty to maintain their facilities and remove or repair potential safety hazards.

Otherwise, the responsible party could be subject to a lawsuit if a camper is hurt as a result of their negligence.

Here are some examples where a campground owner could be considered liable in the event of a serious injury:

  • Failure to maintain trails and remove dangerous obstacles
  • Lack of posted signs to warn visitors about hazards that cannot be removed
  • Poorly maintained or broken playground equipment
  • Faulty electrical hook-ups
  • Slippery floors in the restrooms or shower buildings
  • Poor lighting near public areas such as restrooms, showers or offices
  • Failure to trim large dead branches from trees near public trails or campsites

How do I prove a campground owner or staff member was negligent?

First, if you are injured at a campground and believe the owner is at fault, you should contact an experienced campground injury lawyer. These cases are complex, and the plaintiff must establish several factors to prove that negligence occurred.

Some of the factors a plaintiff must prove include:

  • The campground owner or operator was aware of, or should have reasonably known about, the dangerous condition
  • The condition is not so obvious that any reasonable person should have been able to notice and avoid it
  • The dangerous area (or condition) was not marked with suitable warning signs

Are the rules different for federal, state or county-operated campgrounds?

Yes. It is much more difficult to win a lawsuit if you are injured on property that is owned and operated by a governing entity. This is because county, state and federal government buildings, as well as recreational facilities such as parks and campgrounds, have certain governmental immunities. Therefore, it is especially important to contact a qualified personal injury lawyer if you are injured at a government-run campground.

What if another person or party caused my campground injuries?

In some situations, determining which party is responsible and proving fault for campground injuries is not a simple process. It takes an in-depth knowledge of personal injury law to win these kinds of complicated cases.

For example, if a tent collapses and causes severe harm to someone inside, the tent manufacturer could be at fault. Or, a person may be hurt as a result of reckless or aggressive behavior by another person. In that case, the victim may be able to sue the responsible person directly.

Regardless of the situation, a knowledgeable injury lawyer will help you and your family achieve the most advantageous outcome.

What if I am partly to blame for an accident?

Michigan is a “comparative negligence” state, which means fault can affect the compensation you receive a lawsuit. Basically, non-economic damages such as pain and suffering are reduced in proportion to the degree the plaintiff is at fault. For example, a victim who is 40% at fault will receive 40% less in non-economic damages than someone who has no responsibility.

Additionally, plaintiffs who are more than 50% responsible for an accident are not entitled to receive any compensation for pain and suffering. 

Can I sue a campground if I signed a liability waiver?

A liability waiver is a document that states you recognize there are certain risks and will not hold the campground responsible if you are injured. While Michigan law enforces liability waivers more stringently than in many other states, this does not prevent you from filing and winning a lawsuit. This is especially true if the campground owner or a staff member was guilty of “gross” negligence, reckless behavior or intentional actions that resulted in serious injury.

Other reasons a waiver may be unenforceable include unclear language, failure to specify the “inherent risks” or obscuring the waiver in another document without delineation.

As stated earlier, you should always consult a personal injury lawyer if you or a family member is hurt as a result of someone else’s actions (or inaction). Our highly qualified legal team is here to help you win the compensation you deserve.

Personal injury law is complicated, but finding the right lawyer is simple.

Call 1-800-CALL-SAM today for a free, no-obligation remote consultation from the safety of your home.