Premises Liability for Wells and Mine Shafts
Wyoming is known for many things. A quick drive around just about any area of the state will show off beautiful scenery, farms, ranches, oil fields, refineries, mine shafts, and wells.
While mine shafts in particular have contributed to Wyoming’s economic success, they can also be very dangerous to those wandering around them. So too can wells, which many people still use today, particularly on ranches and farms.
So if a mine shaft or well unexpectedly injures you, who is liable?
These accidents would fall under Wyoming’s premises liability laws. In most cases, if someone is hurt on another person’s property, the property owner is typically held liable. That owner may be forced to pay compensation to the victim for any injuries and ongoing medical care.
But like so many other cases in Wyoming, these cases are not always black and white. And it can be difficult sometimes to determine who, if anyone, is liable.
Premises Liability and Mine Shafts
While mine shafts are typically vertical tunnels like wells, they are not usually filled with water. They are most often created by companies in order to mine for necessities, such as coal. The company that created the mine shaft may be responsible for any injuries that occur in or around one, if the person who was injured was there lawfully (not trespassing, not disobeying warning signs).
But what about abandoned mine shafts? Wyoming is littered with abandoned mine shafts. And over time, vegetation can grow over the opening, hiding them. This makes accidents more likely.
Who’s liable? It may depend on when the mine shaft was closed. Today, there are regulations surrounding the closing of mine shafts because the government understands the dangers they can pose long after the shaft has been closed. If the mine shaft was closed recently, after those regulations were in place, but the company did not follow regulations and someone later got hurt, the company would most likely be liable.
But many of the mine shafts in Wyoming are much older, and may have been closed and abandoned before any mine-closing regulations were in place. You may have to look elsewhere to find any compensation for your injuries, if there is any at all. A lawyer would be your best help in this situation.
Premises Liability and Wells
Because wells are often on a private citizen’s property, getting compensation (or not) after a well accident is more clear-cut.
Property owners are required to take reasonable care to ensure that their property is safe for lawful visitors to enter. If they do not, they can be found negligent and be held liable for paying compensation to anyone injured on their property.
This means that if a property owner knows about a well on his property, whether it’s currently being used or not, he must take reasonable measures to ensure no one is hurt by it. This could include posting signs, or even installing fences and gates around the well. The property owner must also maintain the well, even if he is not using it, as the deterioration of wells can be dangerous for those nearby.
If, however, the property owner did not know about the presence of a well, he may not be liable for any injuries the well causes. For example, imagine a property owner with 10 acres of land that go unused. The property owner does not have livestock on his property, and rarely ventures away from his home. In this instance, there may be a well at the back of the property that was used by a previous owner, but the current owner is not aware of it. Because Wyoming’s premises liability law only requires property owners to take ordinary care for conditions they should have known about, the property owner probably wouldn’t be held responsible if someone else was injured by the well.
Speaking to an Attorney
While mine shafts and wells may be more abundant in Wyoming than in other states, they don’t cause nearly as many injuries as vehicles or other people. This makes personal injury claims involving wells and mine shafts more complex than a typical slip-and-fall case. Still, because these potential hazards are on other people’s property, they would still fall under premises liability law.
If you’ve been injured in an accident on someone else’s property, we recommend you speak to a Gillette premises liability lawyer who has experience with this area of law, and has seen all the unique hazards Wyoming has to offer. Like our team at Steven Titus & Associates, P.C. For a free consultation about your legal situation, please call (307) 257-7800.
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