Farm Ireland

Saturday 21 April 2018

New laws to better protect farmers from claims by ‘recreational users’ of their land

A recent High Court ruling in the case of a hillwalker has generated a lot of interest and questions from farmers
A recent High Court ruling in the case of a hillwalker has generated a lot of interest and questions from farmers
Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

New laws are at an advanced stage to better protect landowners from being sued by so called recreational users of their land following injury or property damage.

Currently the Occupiers Liability Act 1995 provides protection to landowners with regards to recreational users on their land.

It sets out that the person with responsibility for the land will generally be the occupier of the land - whether they are the occupier as a result of a lease or license etc will depend on the agreed terms of the license/lease.

But a general rule of thumb is that the person in control of the property is responsible for any breaches of duty.

That being said, in many cases the injured party will sue both the occupier and the land owner (where they are different people), although this is not the correct legal procedure it may be done as a precaution if there is uncertainty as to who is responsible and legal costs can be incurred.

Land owners should certainly keep an eye that the occupier is taking reasonable precautions.

In addition to the protection afforded under the Occupiers Liability Act 1995, an insurance policy is held by the National Trails Office which indemnifies all landowners and occupiers whose property or land is crossed or adjoins a “Recreational Trail”, provided the trail has been inspected and approved by the National Trails Office.

The cover extends to liability attaching to the land or property owner arising from a user of the “Recreational Trail” sustaining accidental bodily injury or property damage when on the land of the owner for recreational or leisure activities connected with the designated Recreational Trail.

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Nonetheless, Minister for State, Michael Ring said his Department is working closely with the State Claims Agency in relation to the development and implementation of a strengthened National Indemnity Scheme, as indicated in the Action Plan for Rural Development, which would indemnify private landowners against claims from recreational users for injury or damage to property.

Discussions are at an advanced stage and he anticipates that a scheme will be agreed in a number of pilot areas before the end of 2017.

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