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Hunting Accidents: Wrongful Death and Negligence Injuries


During the last week of March of this year, an Illinois juvenile suffered non-fatal injuries after being shot in a hunting accident. The accident occurred on March 30, 2018 around 8:00 A.M. near southern Davison County in South Dakota. According to Conservation Officer Brian Humphrey of the South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks Departments, the Illinoisan was hunting snow goose when the gun that injured him appeared to not have its safe on and was bumped causing a round to fire at the juvenile.

While this incident occurred in South Dakota to an Illinois resident, many hunting accidents happen in the State of Illinois. According to the Department of Natural Resources, also known as the IDNR, “Hunting Incidents by Year Cumulative Report,” in 2015, a total of 308,878 hunting licenses were sold, and 41 fatal and non-fatal accidents were reported. This does not account for other accidents that were not reported to the IDNR.

Types of Hunter Incidents

The IDNR’s report accounts for three kinds of incidents:

  • Type A is a “hunting-related incident is any incident that causes injury or death of any person(s) as a result of the discharge of a firearm or bow during actual hunting activities.”
  • Next, Type B hunting incident is defined as a “hunting-related incident is any incident while hunting not involving the discharge of a firearm or bow which causes injury or death of any person(s).”
  • Lastly, Type C accounts for “medical issues or injuries suffered while in the field, but not caused by the act of, or during, the hunting related activities.”

In its report, the IDNR provides specific notes regarding fatal accidents. According to the notes regarding the accidents from 2015, one accident involved a “Youth hunter [that] was in an elevated treestand pulling up a loaded firearm by a haul line that was attached to the trigger guard. The victim was climbing the ladder up to the stand when the firearm discharged striking him in the abdominal area. Victim passed away 3 days later as a result of the injury.”

When Can I Sue for Hunting Accidents?

Generally, a hunting accident case could fall under the legal theory of negligence. A victim would need to show that their injury or the wrongful death of a loved one was due to a breach of duty. One would first establish liability by showing that the shooter did not exercise reasonable care. The mishandling of the firearm would then cause an unacceptable risk to others near him or her. Additionally, if the victim of the hunting accident dies, the shooter could be liable for their wrongful death

How Education Can Improve Hunting Safety?

According to Illinois law, any person born on or after January 1, 1980 must complete a hunting education course. Then the hunter would need to present a valid Hunter Education Certificate of Competency to receive an Illinois hunting license. There are three ways in which an aspiring hunter can complete the required course:

  1. an instructor-led class,
  2. online self-study or field day course, and
  3. online certification.

Hunting Classes

The IDNR highly recommends a 10 hour instructor-led class that includes demonstrations. Instructor-led classes provide less flexibility in terms of when classroom time occurs. But most classes occur for either a few hours a night for 2-4 nights or a full weekend class. The last class of the course will include final that participate must pass. Upon completing and passing the final test, students will receive the Hunter Education Certificate of Competency issued by the IDNR. The class is free to attend. Many communities offer differing programs that meet this education requirement.

The course covers the following topics:

  • hunter responsibility and ethics
  • treestand safety
  • firearms and ammunition
  • field safety
  • first aid
  • bowhunting
  • muzzleloading
  • wildlife conservation and identification, and
  • state regulations

Online Self-Study and Field Day Course

In more rural areas, it may be easier to utilize an online self-study form of hunting education. For students 17 years old and younger, the hunter-in-training can complete an online course that includes exams throughout the course.  Remember the online service may include a fee. In addition to completing the online course, the hunting student must attend a Field Day, which includes both hands-on training and a final exam.

Online Certification

Hunters may complete an online course in hopes to reduce hunting accidents. Upon completion, the student will receive a Hunter Education certification. Additionally, the online certification includes a fee.

If you believe you may have been injured in a hunting accident due to negligence, contact the Law Offices of R.F. Wittmeyer, Ltd. today.

R.F. Wittmeyer

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