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What Is the New Hampshire Recreational Use Statute and When Does It Apply?

October 23, 2020

In general, landowners are responsible for keeping their property in a reasonably safe condition for their guests. However, New Hampshire has laws that limit landowners’ liability for injuries that occur on their property. Lawmakers designed these limited liability statues to encourage owners to open their land for public use. Although the idea behind these statutes makes sense on some level, the laws present significant challenges to injury victims seeking compensation for their injuries. In effect, the statutes provide property owners, lessees, and occupants who permit the public to use their land without cost with far-reaching protections against liability.

As a general matter, property owners do not owe any duty of care to individuals who enter their land for recreational purposes or to observe recreational activities. As such, the law does not impute any liability for personal injury or property damage that a recreational user may claim. The statute is so broad that owners do not even maintain the duty to inspect their property, provide warnings for hazardous conditions, or keep the property safe for entry.

However, the statute does not apply to situations where the owner engages in intentional or malicious conduct that results in injuries. Further, the statute does not protect landowners that charge an admission cost, collect a fee, or receive any other type of consideration to use their land. Further, the statute does not protect landowners when a recreational user causes injuries to another person to whom the owner owes a duty.

The most common recreational activities that the statute applies to are situations where a landowner allows a person to hike, fish, trap, camp, horseback ride, or participate in pick-your-own produce activities. The statute applies to all land types, even if there is conservation or easement on the property. Further, the law extends to New Hampshire counties and municipalities.

A recent state appellate opinion illustrated the issues that many injury victims face in these situations. In that case, the plaintiff was riding his bicycle on a bike trail owned and operated by a county. When the plaintiff approached the northern part of the trail loop, he noticed that a wooden fence was removed. He did not notice that the poles were replaced with wire, and he mistakenly believed that he could ride through the posts. He rode his bike into the wire and was thrown over his handlebars, and suffered serious injuries. The county argued that they were not liable under the state’s trail immunity statute. Ultimately, the court held that recreational users must understand the risk of injury in these cases, and the statute provides immunity to the park.

Have You Suffered Injuries While Engaging in a Recreational Activity?

If you or someone you love has suffered injuries because of a property owner’s negligence, you should contact the New Hampshire premises liability attorneys at Peter Thompson & Associates. The injury attorneys at our office have extensive experience successfully handling all types of complex legal matters. We understand the devastating financial, psychological, and physical impact that injuries can have on a person and their families. As such, we work tirelessly to ensure that our clients recover the compensation they deserve. Contact our office at 800-804-2004, to schedule a free initial consultation with an attorney at our law firm.