We were just telling you last month that, with a little care and respect, it was still safe to visit Hawai’i this summer. And then a lava bomb crashed through the roof of a tour boat, injuring 23 passengers off the coast near Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. (It turns out the tour company has been sued twice in the last five years for “failing to warn passengers of dangerous conditions” and “dispensing with any kind of risk assessment when selecting an area to view the volcanic eruption.”)
While the U.S. Coast Guard extended the restricted area around the Kilauea volcano to 1,000 feet, the incident does raise concerns about safety in and around our national parks, and what happens if you’re injured in one. Here’s what you need to know.
Generally, if you’re injured on someone else’s property because of a dangerous condition, you’d have a pretty straightforward legal claim for compensation. But suing government entities can be a little bit trickier. It can also get more complicated if you were part of a tour group.
The National Park Service says it spends almost $5 million a year on search and rescue missions, not including the salaries of rangers assisting in the search. And, if you’re careless or disregard park rules, you may be on the hook for your rescue costs.
It may seem like a clear-cut case of an act of nature — just a random occurrence. But national parks can be liable for such injuries if they failed to take steps to check trees near campsites and trails that might be a risk for falling and take steps to trim or cut the trees down before they accidentally fall on an unsuspecting camper.
It seems like you need to sign a waiver for everything these days. While the terms of the waivers appear non-negotiable (if you even read them) they might not be so set-in-stone, and they may not be enforceable later.
The last thing anyone wants is an injury ruining their summer fun. But if an injury does occur and you think it’s the park’s fault, start here. And make sure you talk to an experienced injury attorney about your options.
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