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Liability When Guns Injure People


Victims of gun violence often think that nothing can be done to get compensation for their injuries. They often think that it’s up to the criminal system to punish the wrongdoer, which is true.  But victims of gun violence can also seeks civil accountability in the form of compensation for their injuries.

How Gun Injuries Happen

Gun injuries and deaths happen in one of two ways.

One is by accident. Someone discharges a gun by accident or doesn’t realize the gun is loaded. The other situation is intentional, as in when there is an intentional crime involving a gun (that crime may be directed at you specifically by a criminal or wrongdoer, or you may be accidentally hit during an intentional shooting event).

Who is liable depends on which of these two situations we are talking about.

Who is Liable?

In the first, where there is an accidental discharge of a gun, both the owner and the user of the gun (if different than the owner) can be found liable. That’s because a gun is, obviously, a dangerous instrument. By law, the owner of a dangerous instrument like a gun is liable—often, strictly liable—for allowing someone else to possess or gain access to the gun.

This is often the case when a parent allows a child or teenager to access a gun.

The second scenario is a bit more difficult because there is an actor—the actual shooter/criminal—who clearly has liability, but he or she isn’t the only one with liability.

When shootings happen on a property—say, a business, an apartment complex, or at a larger scale event—the property owners can be liable for negligent security claims.

These cases often revolve around whether or not it was foreseeable that any crime (not just a gun injury) could occur on the property. This is done by looking at prior crime records at a specific location.

Liability for the Seller

In both cases, if a seller sold a gun to someone who wasn’t supposed to have it, the seller could potentially be liable. But this is often limited to circumstances where the seller had a legal obligation to do a background check or where the seller had some knowledge of the history of background of the gun’s buyer.

Manufacturer Liability

You may ask, what about the makers or manufacturers of the gun?

Federal laws prohibit suing a gun manufacturer for liability for injuries caused by a gun, unless the gun was truly defective (i.e., the safety didn’t work, or the gun discharged somehow without the trigger being pulled). This is only for manufacturers—retailers can still be sued, but again, you must show the requisite prior knowledge of the buyer or that there was a breakdown in the background check procedure.

Injured by a gun? We can help. Call the Knoxville personal injury attorneys at Fox Farley Willis & Burnette, PLLC, today for help.




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