Leasing land comes with a liability

I have some land that I am leasing out for hunting purposes. The land is mainly used for agricultural purposes. I certainly like and respect the individuals leasing the land. However, you never know what could happen. Could I be sued for an injury that occurred on my land? If an injury were to occur on the land, would I have coverage under my umbrella insurance policy?

This is a very broad question and is likewise very difficult to answer conclusively. However, this response will serve to summarize some important points.

The first question relates to whether liability could be imposed on a landowner for an injury related to or caused by a hunting accident. The answer to this question is “yes,” subject to a number of exceptions.

A landowner must afford reasonable care to all individuals the landowner knowingly allows on his property. Reasonable care is assessed by a host of factors including the foreseeability/predictability of the harm to the plaintiff and the nature of any harmful conditions on the land. Some examples of harmful conditions would be a bear trap that the owner set on the land or an old mine shaft.

A landowner can assert a number of defenses to these cases. For instance, a landowner may deny any “actual knowledge” of the harmful condition or argue that the dangerous condition was readily apparent. The landowner may also cite the Kansas Recreational Use Statute and other protective statutes.

In these types of cases, coverage would frequently be sought under a farm liability policy. Determining whether coverage exists depends on the policy and is impossible to assess. However, it does merit noting that these types of ventures are often excluded under the typical farm liability policy—i.e. the “business pursuits” exclusion.

A determination of whether coverage exists can only be determined by reviewing the policy. If no coverage appears to exist, a rider can usually be purchased from your insurance agent that would provide coverage.

Finally, it merits noting that liability can generally be avoided by the execution of a properly drafted release. A release would be signed by the hunters before they are allowed to enter the land and would essentially require the hunters to release the landowner of any potential injuries that they may experience while on the land. Thus, in peeling away and simplifying the above discussion, a release is worth its weight in gold in preventing a hunter from later taking potshots at the landowner for the hunter’s injuries.