Legal Ramifications of Hunting Accidents

Barry Covert wrote a guest column that appeared in the January 15 issue of the Buffalo Law Journal. In “Legal ramifications of hunting accidents,” Mr. Covert explains the various civil and criminal consequences that can result from injuring another person while hunting.

The full article is available on the Buffalo Law Journal website.

Importance of intent

In the article, Mr. Covert details the importance of intent when dealing with hunting accident cases. What the hunter’s intent was is central to how liability is assigned in these cases. In a civil case, if the person using the gun was aiming for an animal, the person cannot say that there was no intent to hit the victim. Mr. Covert explains that, because the hunter’s intention was to hit something, whether the intended target was hit is secondary. Intent is different in criminal law, however. If the incident is fatal, the prosecution often argues that intent is irrelevant because the defendant engaged in criminal negligence. Criminal negligence in New York State means that a person did not perceive a substantial and unjustifiable risk. This risk must be considered a gross deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable person should observe in that situation. The standard of care is often used to address the question of negligence in cases such as these. Mr. Covert explains that, in order for someone to be found liable for negligence, the injury to the other party must be a foreseeable result of the defendant’s actions.

Intention is particularly important in cases that are non-fatal. In criminal cases, Mr. Covert writes that punishment is more likely if the defendant does not provide the necessary aid to the injured party. This failure to give aid demonstrates a disregard for that person’s life. In civil cases, a hunting accident must be either negligent or intentional in order for the defendant to be liable. One defense is that the defendant did not intend to shoot anything, but this is difficult to prove in a hunting accident. The most important factor here is that the defendant intended to use a weapon to hit something; what the defendant actually hit is less important.

About Barry N. Covert

Mr. Covert is a senior partner in Lipsitz Green Scime Cambria’s Criminal Defense Trials and Appeals Practice Area. He is known for his aggressive representation of clients in the areas of New York State and federal criminal trials and appeals; driving while intoxicated; constitutional law, including First Amendment, civil rights actions, and federal False Claims Act; defending against allegations of scientific misconduct and fraud, research misconduct and fraud, plagiarism, and fabrication of evidence; and professional licensing defense. Mr. Covert frequently provides legal analysis for WGRZ and other media outlets.