Getting Together Outside: Public Park Statutes

Navigating increased use of public spaces in uncharted legal territory

In communities across the country, parks and open spaces have seen dramatic increases in use this year as people seek respite from the COVID-19 pandemic. These spaces are used as places to exercise, be closer to nature, access essential services, hold protests and demonstrations, and socialize while social distancing. Increased use has also highlighted significant challenges, including increased risk of accidents, and questions about where to turn if you are injured while enjoying a public space.

In Maryland, for example, under the Recreational Use Statute, local governments are immune from being sued for injuries that occur on land made available to the public for recreation. This means that if you are injured in a public park or on a trail you would likely face an uphill battle trying to obtain compensation for your injuries in court.  There are, however, exceptions to this rule. If it costs money to enter the park, or if the government entity willfully fails to warn against dangerous conditions, you may be able to hold the entity liable if an injury occurs as a result of negligence.  Another exception to the Recreational Use Statute exists when a person is injured on a structure or piece of equipment on public land that was placed by the local government for public recreation.

If you or a loved one has been injured on public land owned by a local government contact us for a free consultation.