Rural landowner liability for recreational injuries: Myths, perceptions, and realities Academic Article uri icon


  • Concern about closure of private, rural lands to outdoor recreation has been documented in the research literature for several decades. While many reasons for this phenomenon have been posited, liability for recreational injuries has been identified as a particularly worrisome problem for landowners. However, landowners' perceptions of liability are not commensurate with the reality of legal risks. This article examines rural landowner liability risks through an analysis of the 50 state recreation-use statutes intended to protect landowners from legal exposure tied to injuries sustained on their land. Further, data from the 637 appellate court cases heard since 1965 involving recreational injuries were compiled and analyzed based on the characteristics of the landowner (public or private), recreation activity pursued at the time of injury, and actual liability exposure. Although the focus of this article is primarily on the liability risks of private landowners and organizations, public agencies also are discussed. Recreation-use statutes are increasingly used in government defense, and cases provide more depth in understanding the reality of landowner liability. Recommendations to agencies concerned with access to private lands and suggestions for future research are included.

published proceedings


author list (cited authors)

  • Wright, B. A., Kaiser, R. A., & Nicholls, S.

complete list of authors

  • Wright, BA||Kaiser, RA||Nicholls, S

publication date

  • August 2002