Firearm related accidental deaths and injuries have steadily declined nationwide over the past 25 years. Despite having the 8th lowest number of per capita gun deaths in the U.S. in 2014, California still suffered 2,935 deaths from firearms. In addition, 5,724 persons were hospitalized with non-fatal gunshot wounds that same year.
Although accidental firearm deaths and injuries are uncommon compared to motor vehicle or workplace accidents, their occurrence is often sudden and traumatic. When it happens to a loved one, especially a child, it is heart wrenching.
If you or someone you care about was injured or you lost a loved one due to a gun related incident, compensation may be available if negligence can be proven. Negligence may be on the part of the gun owner, the person handling the gun or the manufacturer of the firearm. When a gun related injury or death occurs it is imperative that a personal injury attorney, with a solid background in firearm related accidents, be retained. The attorney will know all the steps required for gathering evidence to prove negligence, which is paramount in these cases.
Most firearm injuries and fatalities occur from the following:
- Unsecured firearms – Guns should always be stored unloaded in a locked safe when not in use. Over the past years, the news contained several stories of a loaded gun being found in a drawer by a child, resulting in tragedy. It only takes a moment for an unsecured firearm to be found and discharged. Parents can be held legally responsible for the actions of a child if negligence was a contributing factor.
- Alcohol and drugs – Intoxication or impairment and firearms are a potentially deadly combination. An impaired individual may carelessly handle a gun; fire it irresponsibly or deliberately, wounding or killing a friend, family member, neighbor or stranger. How often have we heard the phrase in the news, “stuck by a stray bullet?”
- Careless handling – Guns should always be assumed to be loaded and handled as such. Many accidental shootings have occurred from pointing a supposedly unloaded gun and discovering there was a round in the chamber, after it is too late. Falling with a gun or dropping it can also cause it to discharge. The safety should never be released until the gun is pointed at a target.
- Improper training – California has some of the nation strictest laws concerning gun ownership. One section pertains to required training. For a trained gun owner to allow an untrained individual to handle a gun is negligent and dangerous.
- Improper use of the Castle Doctrine – Similar to a stand your ground policy, California has the Castle Doctrine (PC Section 198.5) which allows an occupant to use deadly force within their home if they have a “reasonable fear of imminent peril or great bodily injury.” For the use of deadly force to be justified they must know or have reason to believe the person entered unlawfully, was acting unlawfully, there was a reasonable fear of death or injury and the intruder was not provoked. If a person comes to the door and opens it, he may simply have the wrong house. That is not grounds for shooting, as there was no imminent threat.
- Firing range accidents – Although the ranges may attract a variety of patrons with different backgrounds, skill and training levels, shooting range accidents are rare. Negligence claims against firing ranges are more likely to be slip and fall accidents than accidental shootings.
- Hunting accidents – These are generally caused by not seeing another hunter in the direction of fire, or firing at a moving target without making a proper identification. Firing blindly and striking a human can be considered negligence. Alcohol is often a contributing factor in these cases.
Retaining a California Firearm Injury Attorney
Surviving a gunshot depends on luck and the path and caliber of the bullet as well as how fast medical treatment is received. A speeding bullet can cause torn flesh, severe bleeding, shattered bones and penetrated organs. In the worst cases the bullet enters the heart, spine or brain causing permanent debilitation or death. It is a sad fact that almost all gunshot injuries could be avoided if proper safety measures are employed. When safety measures are not in place and carelessness causes injury, the gun owner or handler may be held accountable for injuries or wrongful death. To be successful with a claim, negligence must be proven. A case where a gun is dropped and discharges could be ruled accidental but if the person that dropped the gun was impaired that would more likely be seen as negligence.
This is why a person needs an experienced firearm injury attorney. The attorney should have the resources to thoroughly investigate the shooting, by conducting witness interviews, reading police and medical reports and recreating the scene. The attorney should have at his or her disposal, ballistic, medical and forensic experts. Putting together a case of negligence can be difficult and only handled by a qualified firearm injury attorney.
Vititoe Law Group has the experience and resources to build a strong case of negligence in a firearm accident. The injured party may be able to recover damages for medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering and more. The spouse and family of a lost loved one may be entitled to a wrongful death award. If you or someone you love was shot accidentally or intentionally call 818-851-1886 and speak to a personal injury attorney for a free evaluation of your case. Do not wait as evidence can deteriorate over time.