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Who's Liable for Gunshot Injuries? When Can You Sue?

By Christopher Coble, Esq. | Last updated on

Guns can do a lot of damage. Whether unintentional or intentional, gunshot wounds can be catastrophic. And while the criminal justice system can punish some people for purposefully or recklessly shooting another person, that may not cover accidental shootings and may not cover the true cost of gunshot injuries.

In order to hold someone responsible for a shooting, you may need to turn to a civil lawsuit, but against whom? And what are the legal theories for liability in gunshot injury cases?

The Gun User

Obviously, if someone shoots you on purpose, that is a crime. (Unless they were firing in self-defense, or the shooting was otherwise justified.) And prosecutors will generally order a criminal defendant to pay restitution for any damages or injuries to a victim. If not, or if the person who shot you refuses to pay, you could file a civil lawsuit for battery.

Gunshot victims are more likely to sue shooters in inadvertent shootings like hunting accidents. You may claim that the person was negligent in either handling, aiming, or firing a gun, and that negligence caused your injuries. Or the person may have acted recklessly, by drinking before the hunting trip or firing a gun into the air. Either can be the basis for a civil lawsuit.

The Gun Maker

Lawsuits against firearms manufacturers, pardon the pun, can be hit or miss. Gun makers can be held liable for defective products if the firearm malfunctions, but liability for accidental and intentional shootings can get a little trickier. This is especially true given the passage of the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act in 2005, which limits the legal liability for gun manufacturers over illegal acts committed by their customers.

While the Act makes it harder to sue gun companies when their products cause injury, it's not impossible. Gun manufacturers and dealers who negligently or purposefully allow guns to get into the wrong hands -- by filing false paperwork, or knowingly sell to felons and others who should not have weapons -- can still be held liable for any resulting injuries caused by those guns.

If you've been injured by a gun, whether intentionally or accidentally, you should contact an experienced personal injury attorney in your area. Many are happy to provide a free consultation on your case.

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