As Syracuse New York personal injury lawyers, we often represent construction workers who fall from ladders and roofs when no safety line or harness is provided. In such cases, we sue the construction site owners and operators for failing to provide this essential equipment. This happens far more often than you would think.
However, as a recent New York Times article points out, deer hunters who use tree stands are also at great risk of serious injury when they don’t wear harnesses with safety lines attached to the tree. But personal injury lawyers don’t end up representing those folks. Why not? Well, think about it. Usually a hunter has no one to blame but himself for failing to tether himself up. We lawyers are a pretty smart group, but so far we have not figured out a way for someone to sue himself and come out ahead.
Still, since safety matters to us, we want to get the word out that tree-stand hunters, like roofers, need to tie themselves up. A recent New York Times brings this message home very clearly. It points out that at least five people died this year (2017) in New York State by falling from tree stands. And many more have been injured.
By comparison, only one hunter died by gunfire this year in New York State. In fact, gun-related hunting injuries have been dropping for years. Safety awareness initiatives such as orange clothing have really worked.
Meanwhile, tree-stand injuries are climbing. There were about 4,000 tree stand injuries reported nationwide in 2015.
Actually, there were probably more, but hunters who end up in the emergency room sometimes lie about how they were injured. They find it humiliating to admit they fell out of a stand. And sometimes they don’t want their boss or wife to know they were out hunting.
How do tree stand falls happen? Any number of ways. For example, the tree stand itself, especially an old one that has been deteriorating over the years, can simply fail. Or a squirrel or other animal can startle the hunter and cause him to shift. Or the hunter can suffer a heart attack and fall out. Also, a tree stand ladder, especially in icy winter conditions, can be tricky to navigate for a hunter bulked up in winter gear. Alcohol or fatigue can also play a role in causing a fall.
There are even cases where a hunter gets so excited upon spotting a deer that he jerks too suddenly, loses his balance, and falls out. The opposite of excitement is boredom, and there is plenty of that to go around when waiting and waiting and waiting for the stubborn deer to show up, too. When that happens, sleep-deprived hunters, who have driven hours to their favorite hunting haunt, can fall asleep. They then tumble out of the stand all while snoozing soundly. Reminds me of that nursery rhyme, “rockaby baby, on the tree top . . ..” This happened to a hunter in upstate New York several years ago and he ended up paralyzed from the neck down. Yeah, down will come baby, cradle and all.
Although a hunter can fall from a tree stand in any number of ways, if you are a hunter, there is only one sure way to prevent a fall: Tether yourself to the tree using a proper harness and safety line. If you do so, you still might fall, but instead of getting dashed to pieces on the hard forest ground below, you will end up like a human pendulum swinging from a tree. Yes, the deer will be laughing at you, but who knows, you might still get the last laugh. If you’re a really good marksman, you might shoot one dead from your dangling, swinging vantage point. But you won’t stand a chance if you are lying on the forest floor in a broken heap.
Remember, the name of the game is for you to kill the deer, not yourself.