A property owner can be liable if someone gets hurt on their property, even if they are trespassing. So, you may be wondering, “What happens if a trespasser gets hurt on your property?”
Since property owners have a duty to ensure that their home or business is reasonably safe for visitors, and not all visitors are invited guests, trespassers can have a valid claim if they are injured due to negligent property maintenance.
To protect yourself from personal injury lawsuits, become familiar with the conditions that could result in a trespasser collecting damages from you.
When a Trespasser Gets Hurt on Your Property
As a general rule, property owners are not responsible for trespassing injuries. However, there are some instances where this is not the case.
The general rule recognizes that property owners don’t anticipate trespassers, thus, they cannot be expected to have their home prepared for them to safely visit as they would with guests.
This is why trespassers and licensees have fewer rights to compensation due to premises liability, in most cases.
For example, if a homeowner is doing construction and part of the floor is missing in their foyer, they can’t reasonably be expected to warn a trespasser or unannounced visitor of the safety hazard before they encounter it. However, if they invite a guest over, they would be expected to tell the guest ahead of time to ensure their safety.
Can a trespasser sue me?
Trespassers who are injured on your property may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit against you as well as a premises liability case.
Their personal injury suit depends on the extent of their injuries and how they received them. In some cases, they can sue you and win the following damages:
- Medical bills
- Pain and suffering
- Cost of rehabilitation equipment and/or long term rehabilitation
- Prescription medications
If a hazard on your premises caused their injury, they can also file a premises liability case. For example, if a trespasser broke their arm walking up your broken front steps, they would have a case for damages. This is because it is a generally accessible area of your property that should have been appropriately maintained.
Do yourself a favor and protect yourself from unexpected costs, such as paying for lifelong care for a trespasser on your property.
When are property owners responsible for trespasser injuries?
Technically, if a property owner’s lack of maintenance caused a trespasser’s injuries, the property owner is liable for the trespasser’s injuries.
Most individuals are shocked to discover that they have a duty of care to trespassers as well as invited guests. However, the same duty of care applies to all who enter your premises.
This duty of care is to provide a reasonable level of safety by maintaining your property to a reasonable level. Reasonable is used here to refer to what a reasonable individual would expect. For example, a reasonable individual wouldn’t expect a property owner to be aware of absolutely every hazard on their premises. But once the owner is aware, they would expect them to do their best to fix it as soon as possible.
If a trespasser is injured by a hazard that could also impact a guest or visitor, then the property owner has failed to maintain this duty. If this breach in duty causes the trespasser’s injuries, then the property owner’s negligence would make them responsible for the trespasser’s damages.
Exceptions for Discovered Trespassers
Discovered trespassers occur when a property owner determines that others regularly use their property. For example, if a property is a shortcut for hikers to a destination or if it is a common path for school children.
Once a property owner is aware of the common use of their land by trespassers, they then have a legal obligation to warn these trespassers of hazards. For example, posting signs warning that they use the land for hunting.
The general rule ceases to apply in this case, as a reasonable individual would expect trespassers on the property at this point.
Posting signs isn’t enough to allow you to continue dangerous practices on your property. In most states, you must continue to refrain from willful and wanton conduct that could cause harm to any of these trespassers.
For example, a hunter cannot continue hunting on their property if it is a common shortcut to a local hike or national park, even if they have signs posted. This is because they could cause serious injuries to the trespassers, which they would be liable for.
Exceptions for Dogs with “Dangerous Propensities”
Dogs are commonly kept as pets or to guard properties. If you own a dog that you know has dangerous propensities, such as biting guests, then you may be liable for a trespasser’s injuries.
Basically, a dangerous dog that displays vicious tendencies that then injures someone will always result in the owner being liable for the injuries.
You can determine if your dog has dangerous propensities based on its behavior. Does it exhibit signs of aggression or threat to cause injury to humans? Is its breed known to be vicious? Has it previously attacked a human being? If you can say yes to any of these, then your dog is likely to be found to have dangerous propensities.
The owner will not be found liable if they take sufficient measures to protect visitors and trespassers, such as chaining the dog up.
Consult a Lawyer for Personal Injury Claims
If someone is injured on your property, you could be liable, even if they are there without your permission. Protect yourself and your future by hiring an expert lawyer to assist you in handling personal injury and premises liability cases. Our team of West Palm Beach premises liability attorneys and Boca Raton premises liability attorneys can help you understand your rights when a trespasser gets hurt on your property.
Our team at Lytal, Reiter, Smith, Ivey & Fronrath are here to assist you. Call (561) 655-1990 to schedule your consultation today.