Houston Lawyers For Victims of Accidental Shootings
We have the experience to fight for justice for firearm accidents
In the right hands, a gun is a tool for hunting or a means of self-defense against assault or home invasion. We support the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms, and we recognize that exercising this right comes with responsibilities. When guns are improperly stored and maintained or put in the hands of children or inexperienced adult handlers, serious and even fatal injuries can happen. We are staunch advocates for justice for victims.
The pain inflicted by an accidental shooting, both physical and emotional, can last a lifetime. Under Texas law, you have legal rights through the civil justice system. The accidental shooting lawyers at Smith & Hassler will fight for those rights. Schedule your free consultation today.
How accidental shootings happen
Broadly speaking, unintentional shootings are the result of reckless or negligent behavior on the part of someone handling a gun. Anyone who touches a firearm needs to have gun safety at the top of their mind. Inexperienced or reckless handlers can cause accidental shootings by:
- Assuming a gun is unloaded. One of the fundamental rules of firearm safety is “every weapon is always loaded.” Accidental shootings often occur when someone assumes a gun is unloaded and cleans it, waves it around, hands it to someone else without clearing it first, or even points it at something. Which brings us to:
- Lack of muzzle awareness. Responsible gun handlers know to never point a gun at something they don’t intend to destroy. This includes jokingly poking or mock threatening someone with a weapon, posing with a gun in a manner that points it at a person or object, or even unconsciously letting it drift across someone’s body.
- Poor trigger discipline. Proper trigger discipline means keeping the finger off and far away from the trigger, outside the trigger guard or in the receiver area, until the muzzle is pointing at the target and the handler is ready to fire. Handlers with poor trigger discipline may accidentally touch or pull the trigger and hurt themselves or others.
- Not being sure of the target or background. Too many accidental shootings involve firing at something that is the right color but the wrong size, or vice versa. This is a common cause of hunting accidents because fellow hunters are typically dressed to blend in with their surroundings.
In short, there is no such thing as a truly accidental shooting. Every firearm-related incident can be traced back to a decision someone made to be careless with a gun.
The role of negligence in unintentional shootings
Often, accidental shootings are the result of poor or inadequate training for a gun handler. Proper training should include not just the operation of the firearm itself, but also reinforcement of trigger discipline, muzzle awareness, and other gun safety rules.
Alcohol and gunpowder shouldn’t mix, and when they do, the results can be catastrophic. Alcohol impairs judgement and makes the person under the influence more reckless and impulsive. Drugs and alcohol can also affect perception, causing a shooter to misidentify a target or improperly aim at an unintended target.
A disproportionate number of unintentional shootings involve children. There are some settings where it’s appropriate for older children to have access to firearms or be in the vicinity of firearms, but they must be closely supervised by a responsible, sober adult. Guns also need to be stored out of the reach of children; if a child manages to get access to a weapon without parental supervision, an accidental shooting may follow.
Who is liable for an unintentional shooting?
In general, negligent handling of a firearm is covered under the shooter’s homeowner’s insurance if they have it. Property owners are responsible for the general safety of people on their premises, and that includes the safety of firearms stored or used on the premises. If the incident occurred at a gun range or club, negligence on the part of the range may also be a factor. For instance, if a trainer authorized the shooter to use a particular firearm despite not being adequately trained on that firearm, the trainer and their employer can be held liable.
Gun manufacturers generally aren’t liable for misuse of their products. If someone accidentally (or intentionally) fired a gun at someone else, that is on the shooter; the gun did what it was supposed to do. However, if there is a misfire or explosion due to a defect in the manufacturing of the gun itself, the manufacturer can be held legally responsible.
Damages in accidental shooting cases
It goes without saying that being shot is an intensely painful experience that requires medical treatment and can permanently change the victim’s life. Surgery may be needed to repair the damage and remove the bullet – or the bullet may be impossible to remove, depending on its location. Recovering from a gunshot takes time and treatment, and the victim may be unable to work or do household chores during that time. Some gunshots cause permanent damage: a shot to the leg may permanently impair the victim’s ability to walk, for example. All these costs should be accounted for in a personal injury claim.
Depending on the circumstances of the shooting and the effects it has had on your life, we may be able to pursue damages (financial compensation) for your medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, lost future earnings, lost quality of life, and other costs associated with the shooting. The goal is to get the financial compensation you need to rebuild your life – and to send a strong message that here in Texas, we take responsible gun ownership and firearm safety seriously.
Unfortunately, accidental shootings also cause hundreds of fatalities every year. In those circumstances, the victim’s family has legal recourse through a wrongful death claim for damages, including lost earning capacity, lost care and maintenance provided by the deceased person, lost love and companionship, lost inheritance, and mental and emotional anguish.
If the shooting was caused by especially reckless conduct, we may be able to pursue exemplary damages (called punitive damages in some other states). The goal of exemplary damages is to punish the at-fault party and send a particularly strong message that their behavior was unacceptable.
Get an experienced accidental shooting attorney on your side
Again, there are no true accidents when it comes to gun safety. Your shooting may have been unintentional, but it was caused by negligence, and negligent gun owners and handlers need to be held accountable. We know how to investigate, how to negotiate with insurance companies, and how to litigate, if necessary, to get full and fair compensation for your injuries. You have rights under Texas law, and an experienced attorney can protect them.
It’s important to act fast after an unintentional shooting. In Texas, you generally have up to two years from the date of the shooting (or the date of death, for fatal incidents) to file a lawsuit, but we need to get involved much sooner. Evidence disappears quickly, especially if the shooting happened outdoors. Witnesses forget what they saw. The sooner we can launch our investigation and start dealing with the insurance company on your behalf, the better.
Don’t go it alone after an accidental shooting. Get an attorney who knows how to keep your case on target. Contact us today for a free consultation with an accidental shooting lawyer at Smith & Hassler.