Ah, Fall. My favorite time of year! For many people, this season is marked by pumpkins and costumes, but for a select group of the population there’s another reason… hunting season begins in many states!
I grew up in a small town on a small farm where my dad owned about 20 acres of woods. I can remember people, many of whom we did not know, coming up to the house wearing camo and orange vests to ask permission to hunt in the woods. To their disappointment, my dad would always tell them no. I believe his concern was more for his children’s safety, but in today’s litigious society, liability exposures are a major concern to landowners when considering whether or not to grant hunters access to hunters their property.
You may have a liability exposure to an outside party getting hurt on your property due to a hunting incident. If you do not want any hunting activity on your land, make your presence known on the property. For example, hunters will often scout potential land prior to hunting season, and they will often leave survey tape and markers so they can remember where they were scouting. If you remove their signs, they should notice that you are paying attention and do not wish to have them on your land. Also, you should post numerous “No trespassing” signs on your property. In addition, these signs should be posted prominently at all road entrances and along any public roads that your property borders.
Some land owners may lease their land for hunting. The main benefit with this approach (besides revenue from the arrangement) is that you can control who hunts and by what rules they must abide. However, this could also cause a liability exposure because the hunters on your land are now invited guests, rather than trespassers. The duty of care that you owe an invitee is typically greater than that owed to a trespasser. This approach may also negate coverage under your homeowner’s policy and umbrella policy since you are earning money on this land, creating a business exposure which are often excluded under personal policies. So, if you decide to lease your land to a private party, you should request that the hunter signs a lease agreement that includes a hold harmless clause. You should obtain a copy of his or her homeowner’s policy and get listed as an additional insured under that policy. In addition, you should purchase a general liability policy to cover your business exposure since many homeowners, farmowners, and personal umbrella policies exclude this exposure.
A different approach may be to sign a lease agreement with a hunting club and to verify that the club has a hunt lease insurance program holding you harmless. In addition, you should obtain a copy of the policy and get listed as an additional insured under that policy. The hunting club and the hunters should have a minimum of $1 million in liability limits.
Regardless of your interest in hunting, if you’re a land owner with the potential to have hunters on your property, be sure you discuss your exposure with your trusted insurance advisor to learn the best way to protect yourself.
Adapted from Review Hunting Exposures on Your Vacant Land (Revisited). International Risk Management Institute. October 11, 2013.