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June 21st, 2022

What Are My Legal Rights If I’m Accidentally Shot?

Unintentional shootings happen frequently. Often the bullet fired doesn’t harm anyone, but one may injure or kill the shooter or a bystander. A negligence case may compensate you for injuries caused by a shooting.

How Often are People Unintentionally Shot?

In 2020, the Pew Research Foundation, citing the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, states that 535 people in the US were killed by accidental gunfire. The overall number of those killed by guns was 45,222. Accidents account for a little more than one percent of the total. The most common gun-related deaths were suicides (54 percent) and homicide (43 percent).

It’s estimated about 32,850 people are shot unintentionally each year and survive. Accidental firearm injuries account for 37 percent of nonfatal gun-related injuries, according to the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence.

In What Circumstances Are People Accidentally Shot?

The most common situations where an unintentional gun death occurred from 2005 to 2015, according to one study, were:

  • Playing with a gun (28.3 percent),
  • Thinking the gun was unloaded (17.2 percent)
  • While hunting (13.8 percent)

A quarter of these deaths, and nearly half of all 20 to 29-year-olds who were killed, had consumed alcohol.

What Role Would Negligence Play in an Unintentional Shooting?

Whether negligence was involved, and if so, how, depends on the facts of the incident. Schechter, Shaffer, & Harris uses police reports, our own investigation, and expert opinion to find out what happened, why, and who’s responsible. Though the statute of limitations to file a negligence claim in Texas is two years, we need to be involved as soon as possible before evidence is lost, witnesses move away, and memories fade.

Based on the evidence, we may file a negligence claim against the parties involved. You, the plaintiff, has the burden of proving it’s more likely than not the defendant (the party sued) committed negligence. We may name multiple defendants if more than one party played a role in the shooting.

The elements of the case would include:

  • Due to the relationship between the parties, the defendant owed you a legal duty
  • The defendant violated that duty by doing something they shouldn’t have done or under the circumstances the right thing to do was not to take any action
  • Breaching that duty was the factual and legal (or proximate) cause of the accident and your injuries
  • You suffered damages (the measure of your harm in dollars)
  • Texas law requires the defendant to compensate you for your damages

The defendant may deny they were involved, claim they didn’t make a mistake or if they did, it wasn’t negligence, or that you are to blame somehow. Successful defenses may result in your case being dismissed, or your damages award could be reduced.

How Would a Negligence Case Play Out in an Accidental Shooting Case?

Negligence usually boils down to determining if the defendant acted reasonably (they lived up to the duty of care given the circumstances). Negligent acts may include:

  • Failing to secure a loaded weapon used by a child
  • Not getting any training or education in how to use the gun safely but using it anyway
  • Not double-checking to make sure there’s no bullet in the chamber
  • Pointing the weapon at people
  • Having a finger on, or squeezing, the trigger
  • On a hunting trip, not ensuring the target is an animal, not another person
  • Using a firearm while intoxicated, tired, or distracted
  • Wildly shooting a weapon and unnecessarily firing multiple shots
  • A range operator may have insufficient safety rules or fail to enforce them

This is a short list of what could potentially happen. Often unintentional shootings include multiple mistakes, like using an unfamiliar weapon while intoxicated.

Are You Injured After an Unintentional Shooting?

If you or a loved one in Houston, Texas, or the surrounding area are seriously injured in an accidental shooting, contact us at Schechter, Shaffer & Harris LLP for the legal guidance you need with no up-front costs. With more than 45 years of experience helping those injured because of others, our team can defend your rights, represent your interests in these difficult times, and help you receive the compensation you need and deserve.

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