Many Montana residents enjoy hiking. While it can be a fantastic way to exercise and enjoy the outdoors, many hikers wonder if they have any legal options after suffering injuries on the trails. A hiking accident is usually the fault of the hiker, but, in some cases, the owner of the hiking trail may bear responsibility for a hiker’s injuries. In most cases, an injured hiker’s options for legal recourse will hinge on whoever owns the land.

Suing the Government For a Hiking Injury

For years, the government enjoyed insulation against the majority of civil actions due to “sovereign immunity.” Thanks to the Federal Tort Claims Act, private citizens may now file lawsuits against the federal government. If your hiking accident took place on federal property, you will need to prove the park owner was negligent in maintaining the park, and this negligence directly caused or contributed to your injuries. Any accidents that occur in state or national parks will fall under the purview of the Federal Tort Claims Act.

It is essential to heed your attorney’s advice when it comes to suing the government. Filing a lawsuit against a state government or the United States government works very differently than typical civil actions. Civil actions against the government require meeting multiple strict deadlines, and the statute of limitations for filing suit against the government is much shorter than in other cases. While most states place a two-year statute of limitations on civil actions between private citizens, the statute of limitations for filing a civil action against the government may be as short as six months.

Suing a City or Park Owner

If you sustained injuries due to poor conditions in a city-owned or locally-owned park, your options for legal action are a bit more flexible. If the park’s owners failed to address a dangerous condition or caused injuries in some way, you can hold them liable through a civil action. Most lawsuits of this sort fall under the purview of premises liability laws. This area of law pertains to the duty of care property owners owe to lawful visitors on their property.

The distinction between “lawful” visitors and trespassers is important. You cannot sue if you were trespassing or otherwise unlawfully present on the property where your accident occurred. For example, if a park has posted hours, it is essential to abide by the posted rules and only enter the park during permitted times. If you sustain an injury somewhere you were not supposed to be, you will likely fail in any attempt to sue.

Consult an Attorney | Heenan & Cook, PLLC

One of the best things you can do after suffering a hiking injury is to speak with an attorney as soon as you are able. An attorney at Heenan & Cook, PLLC will help you determine your best options for securing compensation for your losses. You may need to file a lawsuit against the federal government, a state, a city or town, or a private park owner. Your attorney will help you gather the evidence necessary for building a case and guide you through the claims process.