Maryland is America in miniature from its rugged mountains, to its fertile valleys and coastal plains, and to its sandy beaches. Add to that Maryland’s urban and rural population base, and you can expect that there are a large number of people who seek access to nature. Of course, Maryland has many attractive public parks, but they are not always located where people are seeking access, or the parks may restrict or limit recreational or hunting access.
Growing up on a typical Maryland farm (half woodland, half farmland) with access to a creek, I was aware of dozens, if not hundreds, of cases where people came to the farm to ask to hunt or to get to the creek. Sometimes, they just entered the farm without permission. My folks often expressed concern about the liability risk of having strangers on their farm, even with farm insurance.
Land owners who participated in June 27th’s webinar Hunting Leases, Associated Liability and Appropriate Insurance may have found some peace of mind. Maryland laws give land owners more protection from liability risks than most states. As per the Recreational Statute – Title 5-1102, all visitors not paying a fee in Maryland are considered trespassers. Therefore, according to the webinar, the landowner owes little or no duty to seek out or correct unsafe conditions. Of course, that does not mean that trespassers will not file a complaint or that you should not get farm insurance. But it does give owners more protection if owners do not charge for visitors to access their property, as long as the dangers to trespassers are not considered “willful or malicious”.
When owners are charging a fee to access their property, the liability risk increases. Such owners have a responsibility “to seek out, discover, correct and prevent dangerous conditions or activities and to warn the invitee of those that cannot be corrected”. Is it worth the trouble?
The presenters noted that there are both monetary and non-monetary benefits. Jonathan Kays, Extension Specialist, presents the results of a survey in 2008 that he conducted of typical fees charged to hunters. He also notes that having responsible hunters on your land can provide improved trespass control, and that hunting clubs will often agree to perform on-site maintenance or farm improvements.
The webinar is worth your time if only to provide peace of mind. Check it out here: Hunting Leases, Associated Liability, and Appropriate Insurance Video