Can I Sue for a Slip-and-Fall at a National Park?

Slip-and-falls may not sound that serious, but falling accidents cause thousands of emergency room visits every year – and they frequently result in major injuries. While not every slip-and-fall accident will make you eligible for monetary damages, there are some cases where another party will be considered liable for your injuries. This is true even if you fall while exploring a national park.

Park officials and government agencies have a responsibility to maintain public lands, and ensure that they are reasonably safe for the public. At Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP, we can help you seek justice if you fell while visiting one of California’s beautiful national parks. By holding the right parties accountable for failing to maintain the park and its trails, you may be able to receive compensation for your losses.

Tragedy in Yosemite: Who Is Responsible?

In August 2019, a Romanian tourist died after slipping and falling at Bridalveil Fall in Yosemite National Park. This wasn’t the first incident of its kind: In fact, officials reported that there were at least two other slip-and-fall accidents at Bridalveil Fall throughout July and August, with over 23 total incidents occurring in recent years.

In this particular case, however, it’s unlikely that the park service would be held accountable for the hiker’s tragic death. In the report, officials noted that this hiker slipped from a boulder only after wandering beyond the marked trails in Yosemite. Because the park staff cannot be held accountable for maintaining the grounds beyond the trail, a civil claim would not likely be successful in court.

Liable Parties for a National Park Slip and Fall

In order to have a successful claim, you will need to show that a specific party had a “duty of care” to protect you from a safety hazard in the national park. For example, you can’t claim that a park ranger was liable for a bear attack, especially if you were breaking the park rules and trying to feed the wildlife at the time. However, if you had a rational reason to believe that a trail or area would be safe for you, the park staff or federal government could be responsible for your losses.

Depending on the circumstances of your national park slip and fall, there are a few different parties that can be held accountable for injuries:

  • Tour guides and expedition parties: When you hire a tour guide or hiking expedition company to help you explore Yosemite or Pine Ridge Trail, you may be asked to sign a liability waiver stating that you will not pursue a personal injury claim in the event of an accident. Of course, these waivers do not eliminate the “duty of care” that tour guides and other professionals have towards you – and if your tour guide takes you on a dangerous part of the trail or park, you can pursue damages for injuries.
  • Hiking gear manufacturers and vendors: Faulty hiking gear can put your life at risk right when you need it most, and make it difficult for you to keep your footing even on safe paths. If you believe that your hiking gear failed you at a crucial moment, you may be able to file a product liability lawsuit against the company.
  • The federal government: The federal government is responsible to ensure that national park pathways, trails, and roads are reasonably clear of obstructions. They also have a duty to inform you about dangerous wildlife or other hazards lurking on the premises. Failing to meet those duties can make the government liable for injuries, and you are entitled to sue in that scenario.
  • A specific park ranger or other staff member: Park rangers and other professionals have a responsibility to give the public accurate information about the park’s status, and let them know when and where it is safe to hike. If you were misled by a park ranger or someone on the park service staff, they could be ultimately liable for injuries.

Do you need assistance with filing a slip and fall claim after a national park accident? Contact our team at (800) 462-7160 today for a consultation.