In 2010, a young man dove head first into a lake in Nebraska, hit the bottom, and was severely injured. As a result of the accident, he was paralyzed from the chest down. The case is tragic. Until recently, the young man had been unable to move forward with his personal injury claim against the community organization and the family that owned the lake. In 2013, a judge dismissed the young man’s claims, finding that the family that owned the lake was not responsible for its maintenance. Additionally, the court found that Nebraska’s Recreational Liability Act protected the family and the community organization from lawsuit. Nebraska’s Recreational Liability Act is intended to allow owners to open their land to public use while also limiting their liability should someone become injured while enjoying recreational activities on the land. Yet, according to the Journal Star, because the family wasn’t considered owner of the lake, they were not shielded by this law. The Supreme Court ruled that it is up to the court to decide whether the association should be held responsible.
Nebraska Supreme Court’s ruling means that the young man can finally move forward with his personal injury lawsuit. The case highlights the need for skilled personal injury representation, particularly in cases in Nebraska, where land use laws may limit an individual’s ability to sue in cases where injuries occur on private land. Rensch & Rensch Law know the law and offer aggressive legal representation. Visit them at www.renschandrensch.com or call 800-471-4100.
The case raises questions about when it is possible for individuals who are injured on private property to sue landowners. Under Nebraska’s Recreational Liability Act, owners who open their land to public use have no duty of care to the individuals who use the land. However, the law also has provisions that protect land users from a landowner’s “willful or malicious failure to guard or warn against a dangerous condition.” If a user of the land can prove that the owner was aware of the potential danger but still did not warn users about the risk, individuals who have been injured may have a case against the landowner. However, the Recreational Liability Act nevertheless extends quite a bit of protection to landowners and puts the burden of proof upon injured individuals. Those who have been injured will be required to prove to the court that the landowner willfully or maliciously failed to warn individuals about dangers on the property.
Does shallow water count as such a danger? The courts will have to decide. Until then, individuals who use private land for recreational purposes should use due caution when entering these recreational areas. While spending a day on the water or in the woods can be fun, these properties may not have been evaluated by environmental or government agencies for their safety. Signage may be sparse or non-existent. As a result, users often enter at their own risk.
If you or a loved one has been injured on private property, the laws regarding recreational land use can often be rather complex and Nebraska law hardly adheres to a one-size-fits-all model of handling these cases. Finding a skilled and experienced personal injury lawyer is essential if you or a loved one have been injured, as such a lawyer understands current liability laws and can work to build the strongest case for you and your loved ones.
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