Who is responsible if I get hurt at a state or national park?

Summer in South Dakota means the opportunity to get out and explore the exceptional natural beauty the Great Plains has to offer. Every year, local visitors and tourists find their way to Black Hills or head west to visit Devils Tower in Wyoming.

Whether hiking with the family or taking a solo stroll, visitors to these areas can encounter unfortunate injuries while soaking in nature’s bliss. If you suffer an injury while enjoying a state or national park, who is responsible for your injuries?

Can you sue the government for personal injuries in a park?

Premises liability law holds property owners accountable for their negligence when improper maintenance or unsafe conditions causes someone else harm. Since the government owns, operates and maintains these parks, the government would be the responsible party in a premises liability suit.

Before the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), injured parties could not bring premises liability cases against the government because of sovereign immunity. The FTCA changed that, providing guidelines and procedures for individuals to sue the government for injuries.

However, not just any injury in a state or national park can justify a premises liability lawsuit.

What conditions warrant a premises liability case?

As with any premises liability case, you need to establish several criteria in order to hold the government responsible. Given that the government owns and controls the property, you also need to prove that:

  • The dangerous or unsafe condition already existed in the park
  • The government knew or should have been reasonably aware of the unsafe condition
  • The government had ample time to fix the condition but did not
  • Your injury was not a result of reckless or hazardous behavior

Suing the government in premises liability cases requires strict adherence to the FTCA. To maximize your chances of a successful claim, gather as much evidence as you can. Evidence should include:

  • Proof that the government owns and operates the park
  • Any photographed or videotaped evidence of the unsafe condition and your injury
  • Statements from witnesses to the injury
  • An incident report from park staff or police
  • Medical records showing proof of your injury

The more evidence you can gather, the stronger your claim may be.

Move quickly and discuss your claim with a professional

When filing a premises liability claim for injuries suffered in a state or national park, time is not on your side. The FTCA requires that you notify the government of your impending claim first through an administrative claim. Contact a personal injury attorney as soon as your situation allows to avoid missing deadlines under the FTCA.