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The Recreational Use Statute: It’s Not Always Fun and Games

Categories: Premise/Slip and Fall

By Arthur D. Leritz. Posted on .

Probably the last thing on your mind when launching your boat, going camping  or digging for clams on a beach is “What happens if I get hurt?  What if my injury is due to a dangerous condition?”  If you have had to think about these unfortunate “what ifs” for you or someone in your family, the following is a summary on the law in Washington State when it comes to private or public land being used for recreational purposes.

What the Statute Does:

The Recreational Use Statute, RCW 4.24.210, provides immunity for “unintentional injuries” when the land is open to the public for recreational use free of charge.  The statute encompasses all recreational activities that are commonly conducted outdoors.[1]

What the Statute Does Not Do:

The Statute does not necessarily immunize landowners from intentional injuries, even if they are committed by third parties.  A landowner can be held liable for intentional injuries caused by third parties if: (a) a special relation exists between the actor and the third person which imposes a duty upon the actor to control the third person’s conduct, or (b) a special relation exists between the actor and the other which gives to the other a right to protection.

The Recreational Use Statute also does not limit a landowner’s liability when injuries are sustained by reason of a “known dangerous artificial latent condition for which warnings have not been conspicuously posted.”  A dangerous condition is defined as one that poses an unreasonable risk of harm.  A “latent” condition is one which is not readily apparent to the recreational user.  A condition is not “latent” within the meaning of the statute if the object itself is readily apparent to the user, even if the harm that it presents is not.

As always, when engaging in any recreational activity on land open to the public, check for warning signs, dangerous conditions and be observant.  If you notice something that is a potential danger, notify the landowner.



[1] the cutting, gathering, and removing of firewood by private persons for their personal use without purchasing the firewood from the landowner, hunting, fishing, camping, picnicking, swimming, hiking, bicycling, the riding of horses or other animals, clam digging, pleasure driving of off-road vehicles, snowmobiles, and other vehicles, boating, nature study, winter or water sports, viewing or enjoying historical, archaeological, scenic, or scientific sites.

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