Archive for June, 2010

Recreation and Real Property Liability

Thursday, June 10th, 2010

Recreational Access on Private Land.

Landowners should consult an experienced Real Estate Attorney before they consider opening their property up to third-party recreationists. As a lawyer with an appetite for high risk recreation, I also want to ignore the liability risks associated with lending out or charging others to come on land and play.

An issue landowners should consider prior to charging people to use their property is inadvertently exposing themselves to potential liability. There is a significant risk associated with potential injuries when people recreate in open spaces, especially when activities include water, trees, Dirt Bikes, Electric or Powered Skateboards, ATVs, etc.Generally, most states provide that landowners owe a duty to protect people that enter upon their property. The scope of the duty can vary depending on: the reason the person is entering on the property. The highest level of duty comes when a landowner charges people for entry to the property, however, this doesn’t mean that if you don’t charge you are off the duty hook! Some states, require a landowner to inspect the property periodically and repair any dangerous conditions that exist. Landowners must warn visitors of any potential hazards.

For natural spaces such as beach adjacent, mountain, lake and forest properties this is of prime concern because nature is unpredictable and
can easily kill and mutilate your guests. So, landowners who open their properties up to the public or even a few guests should consider how to protect themselves and their families from a financially devastating lawsuit.

Here are some strategies for implementation:

1. Liability Waiver forms. If you know regular persons are coming into your open spaces to enjoy nature and recreation on your property. You can give them waiver forms to sign if they wish to continue enjoying your property. Even if some of the provisions in these contracts may not hold up in court they at least may serve to deter a lawsuit.

2. Install signs regarding their assumption of their own risks at all access points to the property. WARNING, DANGER! Make sure these signs are also printed in common languages of visitors. Any way you can put visitors on notice will help you with liability issues later.

3. INSURANCE. Call your insurance agent today, sit down and read your policy to make sure it is sufficient to protect you. Think about any changes in conditions that have taken place since you signed that policy. Is your coverage adequate? Does the policy specifically cover the activity you most often see taking place on or near your property? Does the policy just look like a long document outlining all the ways your insurance company can get out of paying for damages or defending you in court?