For many New York City families, summertime means an opportunity to escape the city and spend quality time outdoors with loved ones. This region has plenty of picturesque campgrounds to choose from for camping getaways, including the beautiful Adirondacks and Catskills. When planning any vacation, your family’s safety is always a top priority. This is even more important when you’re out in the wilderness, as campgrounds have their own unique dangers. Many of these dangers can be avoided as long as campground staff members and your fellow campers follow the proper safety rules. Unfortunately, not every campground or camper behaves as responsibly as they should, and sometimes others get injured through no fault of their own.
Common Causes Of Campground Accidents
Before a camping trip, it’s important to make sure your family is prepared for any dangers which could arise. However, even safe families are at risk of being injured due to the negligence of the campground or fellow campers. While some camping accidents are caused by acts of nature, many others are the direct result of human error.
Fire Safety Violations
Campfires are an important part of any camping experience. They give your family a place to gather, tell stories, and toast marshmallows. However, there is a great potential for causing an accident if the proper safety rules are not followed. Most wildfires are caused by human error, either through the campground failing to provide the proper safety measures or through safety violations by other campers.
New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation has outlined the following safety rules for campfires:
- Use provided campfire rings when available.
- Build campfires away from flammable materials, such branches, steep slopes, rotten stumps, logs, dry grass, and leaves. Extra wood should be kept at a safe distance from the fire.
- Campfires must be less than 3 feet tall and less than 4 feet in diameter.
- Only use charcoal or untreated wood as fuel.
- Remove litter and flammable materials within a 10 foot diameter of the fire.
- Make sure your match is out after lighting the fire. Hold onto it until it’s cold.
- Never leave a campfire unattended.
- Use plenty of water to put the fire out. Make sure all embers, coals, and sticks are completely wet.
If a fellow camper fails to follow any of these rules, a campfire could spread and end up hurting others. When this happens, the person responsible could be held liable for any injuries caused by the fire.
Nature may be beautiful, but sometimes dangerous wildlife can hurt campers. Bites from insects, spiders, and ticks can cause serious health complications including infections, allergic reactions, and Lyme disease. A bite from a poisonous snake can be potentially life-threatening.
Occasionally, dangerous predators such as bears and wolves may be drawn to a campsite if someone leaves food out overnight or if trashcans are not properly secured. In certain camping areas, such as the Adirondack Eastern High Peaks Zone, overnight campers are required to use bear-resistant canisters to store all food, food containers, garbage, and toiletries.
Many campers bring their dogs along for the trip. Just like in the city, it’s important for pet owners to take the proper safety precautions so that their dog doesn’t hurt someone else. Pets should be kept leashed, instead of being allowed to roam freely. An unleashed dog could attack a fellow camper, and dog bites can cause serious injuries. Unleashed pets also increase the risk of attracting a bear to the campsite.
Slip, Trip, & Fall Hazards
Campgrounds should be regularly maintained in order to eliminate potential slip, trip, and fall hazards. Wet tile floors in bathrooms and showers pose a hazard to campers who could easily slip, fall, and seriously injure themselves. If there is a swimming pool onsite, the deck and surrounding areas should also regularly be cleaned and dried to avoid these types of accidents. Hiking trails and other walking areas should regularly be cleared of any obstructions which could cause a camper to trip and fall.
Campgrounds which feature swimming pools and natural bodies of water need to have the proper safety measures in place to prevent accidents. There should be staff members in charge of supervising water activities, especially when children are present. If the camp offers guided group outings, such as kayaking or canoeing, then tour guides need to be well-versed in water safety and how to properly prevent and respond to water accidents.
Sometimes, campground injuries are caused by defective equipment and camping gear, rather than the negligence of the campground or a fellow camper. For example, many campgrounds provide playgrounds for children. If a child falls and gets injured because of a defect in playground equipment, the manufacturer could be held liable under product liability. Defective outdoor stoves and barbeque equipment could lead to a devastating forest fire.
RV & Auto Accidents
Motor vehicle accidents are always a risk when traveling to and from campgrounds. Accidents involving large RVs and campers can be particularly devastating, especially when a smaller car is on the other end. Like in any other motor vehicle accident, at-fault drivers may be held liable for additional damages in a personal injury lawsuit.
Common Campground Injuries
Camping injuries range in severity, from relatively minor scrapes and bruises which can be addressed with a simple first-aid kit, to paralyzing and even life-threatening injuries. Some of the most common campground injuries include:
- Wildlife bites
- Cuts, bruises, and abrasions
- Broken bones
- Head and spinal cord injuries
- Neck and back injuries
- Muscle strains and sprains
If you or a loved one has recently been injured at a campground, medical treatment should be your first priority. Treating your injuries quickly is the best way to prevent further complications. If you later decide to file a personal injury claim, medical records will also be a key piece of evidence.
Who Can Be Sued For Campground Injuries?
If your injury was directly caused by someone else’s negligence, then you may have a case for a personal injury lawsuit. In order to have a viable claim, your legal counsel must prove that your injury only occurred because of this negligence. There are a few possible negligent parties which could be held liable:
- Campground owners – Campgrounds have a legal duty to do all that they can to keep overnight campers safe. If they fail to meet this duty and a camper gets injured as a result, campground ownership could possibly be held liable. For example, a campground may have failed to regularly clean and maintain shower and bathroom areas, which resulted in a slip and fall injury.
- Other campers – You and your fellow campers also owe each other a duty to behave responsibly so that no one gets injured in a preventable accident. If another camper behaves negligently and you or a loved one gets injured, that camper could be held liable for injury-related damages. For example, another camper may have built their campfire too high, which caused a fire to spread and resulted in property damage and burn injuries.
- Tour companies – Guided tours and excursions allow for memorable outdoors experiences without the burden of needing to transport your own equipment. These tour companies also owe a legal duty of care to their customers. Examples of tour company negligence include improper hiring practices or failure to provide proper safety equipment.
Initially, it is often difficult to determine who may be responsible for a campground accident. If you or a loved one has recently been injured on a camping trip and you’re curious about your legal options, Lipsig’s experienced personal injury lawyers can help. We’re prepared to investigate the circumstances behind your accident to determine who was at fault and we know how to hold these parties liable in a civil court of law.
You may be uncertain if you have a case, but it costs you nothing to find out. Our legal team offers free consultations, and we will only ask for payment after we’ve successfully helped you earn compensation. We’ll happily listen to your family’s story and help you plan for your injury recovery so that you can focus on getting your life back on track.