Hunting Accidents: Are You Covered?

Written by Amelia Gray on February 3, 2010 & Posted in Insurance

Have you been injured in a hunting accident? Well?it happens. The safety on your rifle malfunctioned, you brought Elmer Fudd with you, or, on a dare, you wore deer antlers and a tan leather jacket into the backwoods of West Virginia. Regardless of the cause, you're probably more concerned about the outcome. If you're injury requires medical attention, will your health insurance provider foot the bill?

All things considered, the chances of getting hurt while hunting are slim. In 2007, there were just 30 hunting accidents per 100,000 hunters in the state of Texas. And in California in 2006, only two people died while hunting. Compared to recreational activities such as skiing, boating, and mountain biking, venturing into the forest with bow, rifle, or shotgun in hand seems pretty safe. Nevertheless, if you or your friend caught the bullet instead of Bambi's mother, statistics don't matter as much as getting the medical care--and the insurance coverage--you need.

Insurance Affected by Game Laws
Your insurance policy benefits are affected by local and state hunting laws. If you are hurt because a member of your hunting party behaved in an unsafe manner, you may be entitled to insurance compensation. Unsafe activities include:
? Crossing fences or climbing trees with a loaded firearm
? Placing a loaded firearm in a vehicle
? Shooting across a roadway or near occupied buildings

In general, injuries sustained while the victim is performing illegal or unlawful activities may be scrutinized and disallowed by the insurance company. Be aware of local laws and regulations before you take your hunting trip.

Hunting on Private Land
Private land carries special requirements for hunters. Most hunting clubs carry liability insurance for their members. If you are not a member of a hunting club, you should purchase additional liability insurance for yourself. Additionally, you must receive clearance from the landowners before hunting.

If you're a landowner, you have rights and a responsibility to protect your property. The Farm Bureau offers additional insurance for landowners, and you may require hunters on your land to purchase their own policies.

Hunting Endangered Species
The Endangered Species Act was created to regulate unlawful acts of taking, importing, or carrying endangered species. Harming, wounding, or killing these protected animals also falls under the law, and comes with a maximum fine of $50,000, imprisonment for one year, or both. Civil penalties of up to $25,000 per violation may also be enacted.

Where hunting endangered species is illegal, exclusions may be written into life and health insurance policies. Insurance companies generally take into account facts such as alcohol consumption at the time of the accident, whether the victim moved into the line of fire, trespassing and property laws, and other facts.

Auto Insurance and Deer
During deer season, roadways can become dangerous locations. Collision with deer or other animals is covered under most comprehensive auto insurance policies. However, individual states have their own policies for handling auto accidents involving deer. In South Carolina, for example, the person who hits the deer may keep the carcass as long as there is an incident report from the law officials that responded to the accident.

Insurance Statute of Limitations
You have a limited amount of time to claim insurance benefits from hunting accidents. This time period is known as a statute of limitations and varies from state to state, ranging from one to six years. If you're injured, make sure you know how long you have to collect.

Take care during hunting trips and be aware of local laws as well as the hunting limitations and exclusions on your auto, health, and life insurance policies.

Sources
Endangered Species Act
III Auto Insurance
Minnesota Department of Conservation
South Carolina Department of Natural Resources
Texas Parks and Wildlife
Virginia Department of Forestry

About the Author

Amelia Gray is a freelance writer in Austin, TX. Amelia earned a bachelor's degree in English literature from Arizona State University and an MFA from Texas State University.

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