Wrongful Death Lawyers
Generally speaking, when an individual suffers a severe personal injury or death while visiting a national park, national forest or state park, the park district or parks department is immune from liability. However, a recent case illustrates that circumstances exist where an injury victim or his/her family members can recover for personal injury or wrongful death due to hazards existing in a federal or state park.
In this case, a wrongful death lawsuit was filed by the family of a woman who was killed by a swinging gate at a national park. The young woman was on her honeymoon at the time. The gate swung into traffic thereby decapitated in her and killing her instantly. This horrific incident will forever scar her widower who witnessed his newly wed bride’s death. The husband and other surviving family members filed a wrongful death lawsuit alleging that the gate was not properly maintained and secured, thereby allowing it to swing dangerously into traffic. Further, the lawsuit alleges that over the years, 3 other people were killed by similar gates in the same park.
Generally park districts are immune from liability for injuries that occur in the park. Park visitors are deemed to assume the risks of a wild and undeveloped land, including falls from heights, injuries from falling rocks or trees, or harm caused by wildlife. However, there are some circumstances where a park district can be held liable.
First, not all parts of the park are undeveloped and wild. In fact, many parks contain sophisticated developments, including hotels, restaurants, restrooms and entrance gates and structures. The failure to maintain buildings and other structures in a safe manner may be deemed negligence. When dangerous defects result in injury or death of a park visitor, liability can be proven.
Parks can also be held liable for the negligence of park employees. Park rangers and maintenance personnel operate motor vehicles and other heavy equipment within the park boundaries. Any negligence of these employees in the operation of a motor vehicle or other equipment that results in injury or death of a park visitor, like any traffic accident, should result in compensation.
Finally, park districts can be held liable for hazards that are created by the park district. For example, the park district cannot be held liable for dead trees that fall in the wilderness. However, if they place a picnic table next to a dead tree and the tree falls thereby causing injury or death, the park can be held liable for that type of negligence.
Based on the known facts arising out of the woman’s death at a national park, it seems like that park district will be held liable and have to respond with the payment of compensation to surviving family members.