What Is a Recreational Use Statute and How Does It Affect the Rights of Indiana Accident Victims?

As we frequently discuss in this blog, Indiana landowners owe a duty of care to those whom they allow to enter their property. When a landowner fails to live up to this duty, they may be liable for any injuries caused on their property through an Indiana premises liability lawsuit. The extent of any duty that is owed to a guest depends primarily on the reason for the guest’s visit. Thus, determining the status of a visitor is the first step in an Indiana premises liability lawsuit.

As a general matter, customers of a business or others who are on a landowner’s property for commercial purposes are owed a greater duty than social guests who are invited upon the premises. Finally, trespassers – or those who enter a property without the owner’s permission – are owed the least significant duty. Generally, a landowner must only refrain from willfully causing injuries to trespassers. However, under the state’s recreational use statute, there are other situations in which a landowner may not be liable for a guest’s injuries.

The Indiana recreational use statute limits a landowner’s liability when the land has been made available for public recreational use. This includes activities such as swimming, camping, hiking, or sightseeing. There are also limitations on a landowner’s liability if they allow others to hunt or fish on their property. To qualify for the statute’s protections, however, the landowner cannot charge the visitor a fee for the use of their property.

Commonly, the recreational use statute is used by government entities after a slip-and-fall accident at a public park. A recent case illustrates a real-world example of how courts interpret a recreational use statute.

The Facts

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was a young boy who was riding his bike down a grassy hill at a city-owned park. Evidently, one of the tires on the boy’s bike got wedged in the crack between two concrete retaining walls, and the boy was thrown from the bike. The boy suffered a double compound fracture as a result of the fall.

The boy’s family filed a premises liability lawsuit against the park. In discovery, the boy requested the park’s maintenance records; however, the city explained that the records were routinely destroyed. The boy argued that the city’s destruction of the maintenance records gave rise to the possibility that the city knew about the hazard, failed to fix it, and then destroyed any evidence that showed the city was aware of the hazard.

The court, however, rejected the boy’s argument. The court explained that, under the current version of the recreational use statute in that jurisdiction, the law treats “users of public parks as trespassers.” The court explained that the only way the boy could recover from the city was to show that the city willfully or maliciously failed to fix the hazard. Here, the court explained, even the alleged destruction of the maintenance records would not prove that the city acted willfully or maliciously. Thus, the court dismissed the boy’s complaint.

Have You Been Injured in an Indiana Slip-and-Fall Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in an Indiana slip-and-fall accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation for the injuries you have sustained. At the Indiana personal injury law firm of Parr Richey Frandsen Patterson Kruse, we represent injury victims in Indiana premises liability lawsuits, as well as other clients injured in other serious accidents. To learn more about how we can help you pursue a claim for compensation based on the injuries you have sustained, call 888-532-7766 to schedule a free consultation today.