According to the National Center for Injury Protection and Control, over 70,000 people are treated in emergency departments for non-fatal gunshot injuries annually. Another 30,000 are killed each year from gun-related unintentional shootings, homicides, and suicides. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states gun accidents result in more than 15 percent of the injuries and fatalities from gunshot wounds.
If you’ve been injured due to an accidental shooting, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. However, you must determine who is at fault.
Florida law recognizes a difference between accidental and negligent discharges. It is much more difficult to be successful in a personal injury claim when the discharge was accidental rather than negligent. Therefore, the more evidence you have demonstrating another party’s negligence was responsible, the stronger your claim will be.
Let’s take a closer look at each type of discharge:
- Accidental discharge – Despite the fact that the gun owner had proper training and took all reasonable precautions toward safety, accidental discharge incidents can still occur. For instance, a student’s finger slipped off the trigger guard onto the trigger during a training session, causing the gun to fire. In another example, as an owner placed his gun in a locked cabinet, it slipped out of his hands, hit the ground and discharged. In both scenarios, the responsible parties can argue they took all proper safety precautions, so the discharges were accidental.
- Negligent discharge – This occurs when the gun owner or shooter fails to exercise reasonable care and precaution when handling the firearm, thereby endangering the safety of others. For example, during a training session, the instructor handed a gun to a student informing him it wasn’t ready to fire because the safety was engaged. While holding the gun, the student placed his finger on the trigger, and it fired. In another instance, a gun owner consumed several alcoholic beverages before placing his gun in a locked cabinet. Then the gun slipped off his hands, fell to the floor and discharged. When law enforcement arrived, they performed a breath test and determined that the gun owner was under the influence. In these cases, the gun accidents were caused by behavior that unreasonably jeopardized the safety of others, meaning the discharges were acts of negligence.
If inadequate training or knowledge of a firearm causes an accident gun accident, the gun owner, or even the owner of a property or director of a training course where the incident occurs may be held liable. If the accident was caused by a defect, then the gun manufacturer may be held responsible for the injuries.