Hunting Law ("Official Gazette" no. 99/18, 32/19, 32/20, hereinafter: HL) is a special law that regulates the issue of hunting and game management (lex specialis) in the Republic of Croatia, while the provisions of the Civil Obligations Act (lex generalis) apply in terms of causes and liability for game damage.
Wild game (game) is a collective name by which HL defines the species of birds and mammals that, in the prescribed manner, at the prescribed time, with the use of prescribed hunting weapons, in the appropriate areas in free nature (hunting grounds), can be hunted only by people with passed hunting exam and hunting card. HL prescribes which animal species are considered game, while the bylaws of the Regulations on hunting determine the time when hunting is prohibited (hunting).
There are different types of damage that can occur to hunting grounds, these are according to Art. 78 of HL property damages, i.e., damage caused by game by its action, resulting in a decrease in the value of movable and immovable goods owned by natural or legal persons. Examples of this type of damage include damage to agricultural crops, attacks on farm animals, and damage to farms or other facilities. When game causes damage to domestic animals, the damage related to the reduction of the value of the damaged or killed domestic animal is calculated; the damage caused by the execution of hunting, which includes all the damage caused by hunting, by hunters and hunting dogs, during the implementation of hunting activity. Furthermore, it is damage that includes property and environmental damage resulting from unlawful destruction, damage or appropriation of game, its litters, and nests, including indirect illegal acts that alter or destroy habitats, natural passages, and other important factors essential for the survival of game. Lastly, damage to hunting technical facilities related to property damage arising from unlawful destruction, damage, or appropriation of hunting technical facilities.
Prevention of damage to hunting grounds is ensured according to Art. 79 of HL so that the injured party is obliged to appropriately and at his own expense as a good master take measures, permitted actions and interventions to protect his property from the occurrence of such damage. Actions and interventions are fencing of goods, targeted preservation of goods and expulsion of game, implementation of agrotechnical measures, communication without delay about the damage initiated and circumstances that may affect the taking of measures to prevent damage and the use of mechanical, electrical, and chemical protective agents that are obliged to be provided by the hunting authority at the request of the injured party. The injured party who does not take measures, permitted actions and interventions, and does not allow the hunting authority to carry out measures that prevent the occurrence of game damage or remove the means for the prevention of damage, intentionally damage or remove facilities that serve to prevent damage is not entitled to compensation for the damage caused by the game.
The hunting authority is liable for the damage caused by game in the hunting ground, if the injured party has taken the actions referred to in Article 79 of the HL and, as a good master, protected his property from the occurrence of damage.
The following shall be liable for damage caused by a vehicle on game: (1) the driver if it is established that he was driving the vehicle contrary to the provisions of the regulations governing the area on road safety and existing road signs of express orders, and (2) the hunting authority on whose hunting ground the damage occurred if it is determined that the damage was caused due to the conduct of the hunt. To reduce and eliminate the possibility of damage caused by the attack of vehicles on game, the hunter is obliged to monitor the migration of game and to submit a report once a year to the legal entity that manages the roads described by the border of the hunting ground.
Hunters and hunting dogs participating in the hunt are responsible for the damage caused during the game hunting, provided that the hunter-authorized person has the right of recourse from the hunters who caused the damage.
For the damages referred to in Article 78, points 1 and 2 of the HL (damage to property and damage caused by hunting), the injured parties are obliged to contact the hunting authority in writing within seven days from the date of the damage, in whose territory the damage occurred, provided that the hunting authority is obliged to respond to the injured party within a further period of seven days. After the expiration of the 7-day period, the injured party is obliged to propose to the hunting authority the conclusion of an agreement on compensation for damages within a further period of 30 days, and the hunting license is obliged to respond to such a proposal of the injured party within a further period of 30 days, and if an agreement is concluded, that agreement constitutes an enforceable document. After the expiry of these deadlines and if there is no agreement on compensation, the injured party may appeal a lawsuit for damages to the competent court no later than three years from the date of the damage. The competent court will dismiss the lawsuit if the injured party has not acted in the manner described above.
For compensation for damage caused by the run-in of game on a vehicle on the motorway, the legal person operating the motorway is liable on the principle of assumed guilt. When it was established that the game was located on the motorway pavement, a failure in the maintenance of the highway by the legal entity operating the highway was proved. The defendant is subject to the burden of proof that there were no failures in the maintenance of the motorway, whereby the plaintiff is not obliged to concretize every single omission or harmful action that caused the game to be found on the motorway.
Sentence of the High Commercial Court of the Republic of Croatia, no: Pž 4322/2021-2, date: 26.01.2023.
In the case of damage to the hunting ground caused by the game, the hunting authority of that hunting ground is liable, who can be exempted from his liability for the damage if he proves that the injured party has not taken the prescribed measures to prevent game damage, if he proves that the damage did not occur from game or that it arose from some unpredictable cause that was outside the object that could not be prevented, avoid or eliminate or if he proves that the damage was caused exclusively by the action of the injured party or a third party whom he could not have foreseen and whose consequences he could neither avoid nor eliminate (for example, that the injured party, by frightening the game, directed it to his motor vehicle).
Sentence of the High Commercial Court of the Republic of Croatia, no. 3039/2022-2, date: 30.12.2022.
Game on the road is a dangerous thing and the owner of the hunting ground is obliged to prove the existence of circumstances that partially or completely exclude his liability. If the owner of the hunting ground proves that he has requested the installation of traffic signals on the road, which the request was not complied with by the legal person who manages the road, he is not released from responsibility towards the plaintiff. This is because the hunting authority and the legal entity that manages the road, in relation to the plaintiff are solidarity payers (Art. 43rd pg. 1. ZOO). This fact may possibly have an impact on the mutual recourse liability of solidarity debtors.
Sentence of the High Commercial Court of the Republic of Croatia, no. 3182/2020-3, date: 02.11.2022.
When there was no improper treatment of the driver of a motor vehicle and the presumption of a causal relationship between the harmful action of the County Road Administration due to failure to place a traffic sign and the occurrence of a traffic accident was not met, then the provisions of Art. 86 of the Hunting Act does not exclude the general application of the provisions of the Civil Obligations Act on objective liability for damage caused by a dangerous property (venison deer).
Sentence of the Varaždin County Court, no: Gž 338/2021-2, date: 22.09.2022.
Since the game is of good interest to the Republic of Croatia and has its special protection, the person who has acquired the right to hunt based on a lease or concession (hunting authority) is liable for the damage from game. The liability of the hunting authority is an objective responsibility, according to the principle of causality, so it is up to him to prove exculpatory reasons for exculpatory reasons for exemption from liability for damages.
Sentence of the High Commercial Court of the Republic of Croatia, no: Pž 2303/2021-2, date: 04.02.2022.
The commercial court does not have jurisdiction to handle a dispute between legal entities, in the case of a dispute for which the jurisdiction of another court has been established by a special law.
Sentence of the High Commercial Court of the Republic of Croatia, no. Pž 6125/2017-3, date: 12.03.2019.