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Unlocked guns at home may give rise to premises liability suits

Readers of this personal injury law blog know that a property owner bears certain responsibilities to invited guests. In the commercial setting, injuries that are alleged to occur because of a hazardous on-site condition may give rise to a premises liability suit.

Yet private property owners also bear a responsibility to their guests. For example, in previous posts we’ve discussed some of the liability issues that might arise when a guest -- or even a neighbor -- is bitten by a dog or alleges an animal attack. Such injuries are likely to invoke juror sympathy.

Yet perhaps no type of injury is more tragic than children who are injured after playing with an unlocked gun that they discovered in a home. A recent article indicates that this type of injury continues to be a problem for American families. According to data from the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, 617 children died from accidental shootings between 2001 and 2010. Many more may have sustained non-fatal injuries.

Illinois is one of the 27 American states that has a law imposing criminal liability to the adult owners whose failure to keep their gun stored or locked up at home resulted in injury to a child. That criminal penalty is in addition to any personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit, which could be a very real possibility if the injured child was a neighbor or visiting guest, rather than a dependent of the gun owner.

Parents who learn of an injured child are understandably in an emotional state, and will probably devote all of their attention to their child’s recuperation. Fortunately, an experienced attorney can step in at this moment of hardship, taking the reins to prepare a strong civil lawsuit against the negligent gun owner.

Source: Poughkeepsie Journal, “Group seeks to strengthen N.Y.'s law on gun locks,” Brian Tumulty, Jan. 6, 2014

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