I feel very fortunate to live in the Evergreen State. Us Washingtonians have more than 100 state and 13 national parks in our backyard. My family and I love spending time at our parks, whether it’s hiking or taking a walk to enjoy the scenery.
It was interesting to learn that hiking and other outdoor recreational activities in Western Washington have doubled in popularity over the past decade. In fact, annual Discover Pass sales for Washington State Parks have increased 55 percent in five years. I’m all for more people discovering the beauty of the Pacific Northwest through outdoor activities.
The vast majority of people recreating in our state and national parks will have a safe time. However, statistics show that as the number of people recreating in the wilderness increases—so do the amount of injuries as a result. Whether you’re a new hiker or seasoned outdoorsman, it’s always important to know how to prevent an injury at a state or national park.
State & National Park Injury Statistics
While fatalities are rare at state and national parks, they can and do happen. According to the National Park Service, over 350 million visitors visit our national park system each year. Out of those, there are more than 160 fatalities that occur on a yearly basis.
In the most recent 2005 report of injuries at the Olympic and Mount Rainier National Parks, there were an average of 22.4 injuries out of every one million visitors between the two parks. With the rise of park visitors over the past couple years, it’s reasonable to assume that this also increases the number of injuries.
The most common causes of unintentional visitor injuries or fatalities at state or national parks include but are not limited to:
- Slip or falls
- Motor vehicle crashes
- Exposure to extreme elements (e.g. hypothermia)
- Wild or domestic animal attacks
Preventing State & National Park Injuries in Washington
The best way to prevent an injury at a state or national park is to prepare. It’s important to do research on the park itself. When planning your trip, get information regarding hazards and environmental conditions. For example: Olympic National Park provides helpful tips on wilderness safety on their website, along with non-emergency alerts and notifications to look out for. You should also fully understand the rules and regulations at the park before arriving.
Be sure to choose appropriate activities that matches the skill set of you or your group, especially with young or inexperienced family members or friends. The best way to avoid an injury is to use sound judgment. Obey the rules, don’t go off track and always be prepared.
Consult with a Washington Recreational Injury Attorney
So you may be wondering: who is responsible if I’m injured at a state or national park? Can I sue the government? Short answer: it depends. This is why it’s important to consult with Washington recreational injury attorney, like myself, to better understand the full-spectrum of your case.
Injuries sustained in a state or national Park can potentially fall under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). This is a legal concept that will allow injury lawsuits to proceed against the government. Prior to the FTCA being enacted in 1946, it was impossible to sue the government for injuries sustained while on government property. The guidelines that govern the FTCA are very strict with regards to when and how a claim can be filed. During our initial consultation, I can provide you more information on this process and advise you on the next best course of action.
I understand how devastating a recreational injury or fatality can be. I’ve handled multiple cases throughout my career in the outdoors. This includes the 2010 tragedy at Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. In this case, a 11-year-old girl was killed when she was struck by a boulder of ice. If you believe that your injury was due in part to negligence on the behalf of the state or federal government at a park, set up a free consultation with me today. I can help determine if you are entitled to seek restitution for your injuries.
This article was originally published on James McCormick’s website.