I was injured by a hunter upstate when I was accidentally shot while myself and my companions were camping out on public lands. Fortunately for me, the hunter was shooting buck shot, so I was able to recover from my wounds. My companions reported the incident to park rangers. The park rangers found the offending hunter. The rangers told me that the hunter was drinking prior to the incident. Do I have a claim for my injuries?
Yes, you have a claim. First, if the hunter was shooting for birds with buck shot, he should have been pointing up at the sky where the birds fly, not near the ground where you were walking. It is not reasonable to shoot at birds near the ground. Second, Environmental Conservation Law § 11-1203 prohibits hunters from hunting while intoxicated. The blood alcohol levels for hunters mirror those blood alcohol levels found in the Vehicle and Traffic Law for motor vehicle drivers (Vehicle and traffic Law § 1192). That means if the hunter’s blood alcohol level was .08 of one percent or more by weight of alcohol, the hunter is intoxicated and his capacity to control his physical or mental capacities is impaired due to his alcohol consumption. According to Environmental Conservation Law § 11-1207, blood alcohol levels are admissible at trial, thus that information of the intoxication would be heard by the jury.
The next issue would be to recover damages from a hunter. As explained in previous blogs on several different topics, collecting judgments from individuals can be difficult, especially if the person is poor. However, if the person was a homeowner, their homeowner’s insurance policy will cover the hunter for this claim. Thus if the hunter is sued, he would turn over the summons to his insurance broker or carrier. The insurance company will hire attorneys to defend the hunter in court. The insurance company will also indemnify the hunter up to the value of the liability insurance policy limits.