What Happens If You Are Injured at a State or National Park?
What Happens If You Are Injured at a State or National Park?

Our region is home to several beautiful state and national parks, such as Mount San Jacinto State Park and Joshua Tree National Park. These parks provide great opportunities for residents and tourists to hike, explore and spend quality time with family and friends. Of course, there is always a risk that you or a loved one could be injured while at a state or national park. If you are injured through no fault of your own, who might be liable for your injury?

Making a personal injury claim for an injury that occurred on land owned by the government is quite different from making a premises liability claim against a private entity. Claims against government entities are subject to different standards. In general, it is more difficult to make a claim against the government. However, it is possible to successfully sue a government agency for an injury sustained at a state or national park.

The Government’s Duty

Government entities that own these parks are responsible for maintaining these properties and keeping them reasonably safe. They are expected to exercise the same level of care in keeping the property safe as a private owner would. This includes things such as keeping sidewalks, roads and buildings safe for visitors, maintaining public playgrounds, and posting warning signs for any known hazards.

If the government entity responsible for the park has failed to exercise this duty of care, they may be considered liable for an injury related to the unsafe condition. Examples of negligence by state or national park employees might be:

  • Broken playground equipment
  • Poorly maintained sidewalks or pathways
  • Hazards in government buildings
  • Failure to warn of hazardous areas

How to File a Claim for a Public Park Injury

If you believe your injury was the fault of a government entity, you will need to file a claim against the agency. It is a good idea to consult with an experienced California personal injury attorney before beginning this process. In California, personal injury claims against government agencies usually need to be filed within six months of the injury, so time is of the essence in these cases.

Proving Liability in a State or National Park Injury Case

In order to prove your claim against the government entity responsible for the state or national park where you were injured, you will need to prove the following:

  1. The property owned by the government was in a dangerous condition at the time your injury occurred.
  2. Your injury was directly caused by the hazardous condition.
  3. The hazardous condition created a risk for the type of injury you suffered, and that risk was reasonably foreseeable.
  4. The condition was created by the negligent act or omission of a government employee, within the scope of their employment; or, the government entity responsible for the park had notice of the condition and failed to correct the problem within a reasonable period of time.

Injuries on Guided Tours

Oftentimes, visitors to California’s state and national parks participate in guided tours, such as hiking tours and bike tours. If you are injured on a guided tour, you may be able to file a personal injury claim against the tour company. If the tour of the park is provided by government employees, you would need to proceed in a claim against the government agency. However, sometimes tours are provided by private tour companies. In these cases, you may have a claim against the private company. You would need to prove that your injury was caused by the negligence of the tour company staff. An example of when this might be the case is if the tour guide took you to a location that was off-limits to tourists and you were subsequently injured.

The important thing to remember—whether you were injured while visiting a government-owned park on your own, or under the guidance or a tour company—is that you will need to prove that someone else’s negligence caused your injury. If you were injured at a state or national park and are considering a claim against a government agency or a private company, you should consult with a personal injury attorney as soon as possible.

“Bringing a personal injury claim over an injury suffered on government-owned property can be quite an involved process. It’s important to work with a personal injury attorney who has ample experience with such cases,” said Attorney Walter Clark, founder of Walter Clark Legal Group.

Our firm has been handling personal injury cases throughout the California Low Desert and High Desert communities for over 30 years. With a 95% success rate, the California personal injury attorneys at Walter Clark Legal Group will fight to hold those responsible for your loss accountable and win compensation to cover medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. If you have been injured and want to discuss your legal options, contact us today for a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer. We have offices in Indio, Rancho Mirage, Victorville, El Centro, and Yucca Valley, and represent clients through the entire California Low Desert and High Desert communities.

DISCLAIMER: The Walter Clark Legal Group blog is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended as legal or medical advice. References to laws are based on general legal practices and vary by location. Information reported comes from secondary news sources. We do handle these types of cases, but whether or not the individuals and/or loved ones involved in these accidents choose to be represented by a law firm is a personal choice we respect. Should you find any of the information incorrect, we welcome you to contact us with corrections.

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