Landowner Liability and Recreational Activities

b2ap3_thumbnail_recreational-activities-protections-liability.jpgEvery day, thousands of Illinois residents take the opportunity to get outside and enjoy recreational activities that often takes them onto the property of others. When you consider of someone else’ property, you probably think of their home, yard, lakeside cottage or cabin, or business property. What you may not always remember is that privately owned property may also include forested areas, open meadows, and waterfront land that provide inviting settings for enjoying the outdoors. Unfortunately, however, many individuals are injured during such activities, and due to existing laws in Illinois, a person injured during recreation on another’s property may have limited avenues for collecting damages.

Afforded Protections for Recreational Use

In 2013, the Illinois legislature officially addressed the concerns of landowners who were willing to offer the public use of their property but had reservations due to potential personal injury liability. Until that point, the law had only offered protections to owners related to hunting and other shooting sports on the owners’ land. Lawmakers realized that, in order to encourage conservation and outdoor recreation in the state, landowners need to feel secure in offering their property for such uses, and in August 2013, a new law provided the needed security.

How it Works

Known as the Recreational Use of Land and Water Areas Act, the law specifies that a landowner who permits the use of his or her property by the general public without charge for recreational purposes, does not owe a duty of care to keep the premises safe or to warn of potentially dangerous conditions. Recreational purposes statutorily include hunting, shooting, and any other activity related to conservation, resource management, education, or outdoor recreation, such as camping, biking, hiking, rock climbing, or kayaking. Nature study, including bird watching and wildlife observation, is part of the conservation activities afforded protection.

For the landowner’s part, it is understood that, by offering his or her land for public recreational use, he or she does not:

  • Make any assurances as to the safety of the property or appropriateness to a particular purpose; or
  • Assume responsibility or incur liability for injuries caused by the injured party’s own actions, or by those caused the condition of the property.

Exceptions

Despite the protections it does afford, the law stops short of providing full immunity to landowners. An owner may be held liable in situations of “willful and wanton failure to guard or warn” about a dangerous condition. Willful and wanton refers to intentional or reckless behavior regarding possible dangers, which exceed the expectations of a reasonable person. The owner may also be liable for injuries to individuals expressly invited onto the property—rather than simply permitted as part of the general public—or to those who have been charged an entry fee.

If you have been injured in the course of outdoor recreational activities, it is important to understand your available options under the law. Contact an experienced Illinois personal injury attorney to discuss your case. Call 630-920-8855 to schedule your free initial consultation.

Sources:

http://www3.illinois.gov/PressReleases/ShowPressRelease.cfm?SubjectID=1&RecNum=11482

http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs3.asp?ActID=2081&ChapterID=58

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