Campgrounds that are owned by private property owners must be maintained in a safe condition. If an unsafe condition on a campground causes injury to a camper, the owner may be liable for money damages in court. Whether the owner may be liable depends upon whether the owner was negligent.

What is Camp Negligence?

Campground negligence is the failure by a campground owner to exercise reasonable care to create a safe camping environment. A campground owner is a private property owner who makes facilities available to the public.

Individuals who pay a fee to use the campgrounds are owed what the law calls a duty of care by the owner. This duty requires the owner to maintain the grounds in a reasonably safe condition. The failure to safely maintain the premises may cause an individual’s injury. This failure is considered a breach of the duty of care. If the breach causes injury, in which a camper sustains damages (monetary losses), the campground has committed negligence.

What Types of Injuries and Violations Can Happen In a Camp Setting?

A campground owner can violate the duty of care to keep their premises safe in a number of ways. Campground negligence is caused by the following (among other factors):

  • Inadequately maintained walking paths, biking paths, and trails.
  • Inadequately or improperly trained staff.
  • Hazardous conditions on the campgrounds, which the owner has not informed camp goers about.
  • Equipment that is damaged, maintained in poor condition, or broken.
  • Inadequate maintenance of specific facilities, such as restrooms.

Injuries sustained by campers are varied and can be severe. Common injuries are slips, trips, and falls and bike accidents. Injuries may result in joint damage, bone damage, damage to the neck and back, head or spinal cord injuries, eye injuries, and burns.

Who Can be Held Liable for Camp Negligence?

Cases in which a guest on someone’s properties injured due to the owner’s negligence are referred to as premises liability cases. In premises liability cases, the owner can be held liable for negligence.

In all 50 states and in the District of Columbia, an owner of property is responsible for damages for injuries caused by negligence. The owner, to avoid a negligence claim, must demonstrate it made reasonable efforts to create and maintain a safe camping environment.

What are the Legal Remedies for Camp Negligence Claims?

Individuals who have been injured by a campground’s negligence can recover monetary damages. Monetary damages compensate victims for costs resulting from the injury.

These costs can include medical bill expenses, prescription drug expenses, and medical device expenses. Plaintiff may also be compensated for pain and suffering sustained as a result of the injury.

Are There any Unique D.C. Laws that Apply to Camp Negligence?

Washington, DC is one of a handful of jurisdictions that fully embraces the legal doctrine of contributory negligence. Under this doctrine, the plaintiff also has a duty to act reasonably and non-negligently. If a plaintiff fails to do so, they may be held responsible for all or part of their injury, even if the defendant also acted negligently.

Contributory negligence is a defense. A defendant assets this defense when a plaintiff argues that the defendant’s negligence caused injury. For a defendant to prevail on this defense, the defendant must prove that the plaintiff acted negligently. The defendant must also prove that the negligence was a contributing factor to plaintiff’s injuries.

How can I File a Camp Negligence Case in the D.C. Area?

A plaintiff seeking to file a DC negligence case can file a summons and complaint with the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, Civil Division, Civil Actions Branch. The summons and complaint must be served upon the defendant camp owner. In addition, a plaintiff must file a Case Information Form with the clerk of court. This form contains a list of different types of civil cases. The Plaintiff should check the “negligence” category.

Are There any Defenses to Camp Negligence?

Other than contributory negligence, the main defense to camp negligence is assumption of the risk. Under the doctrine of assumption of risk, when a plaintiff knowingly engages in a clearly dangerous activity, the plaintiff may not be entitled to recover damages. For the doctrine to apply, the plaintiff must actually know the risk involved in the dangerous activity. In addition, the plaintiff’s acceptance of the risk and decision to proceed with the dangerous activity must be voluntary.

Under the doctrine, a plaintiff is barred from recovering damages due to injuries, if the injuries are caused by the dangerous activity. The plaintiff must also voluntarily accept the risk involved in the activity. This defense only applies to those dangerous activities the plaintiff voluntarily engaged in, not to other, unknown or hidden dangers.

Should I Hire a D.C. Lawyer for Help with a Camp Negligence Lawsuit?

If you have sustained injuries at a campground and believe the owner may have been negligent, you should contact a personal injury attorney. An experienced DC personal injury attorney can review the facts of your case, and advise you as to your rights and options.