In previous blogs, we’ve discussed the basics of premises liability, in which we distinguished the differences between invitees, licensees and trespassers. In instances where an invitee or licensee is injured, the legal consequences are fairly straight forward, when a trespasser is involved, things become a bit more complicated.
“Most people are aware that they must keep their property safe for people that they allow on their land,” said Thomas D. Bumgardner, a Charlotte premises liability lawyer. “But, many are unaware that there are circumstances in which they can be held liable for injuries to trespassers.”
In this week’s blog, we discuss what property owners need to know about trespassers and premises liability law.
What is a Trespasser?
A trespasser is anyone who enters a person’s property without the permission of the property owner. The trespasser has entered the property to serve their own purposes, such as taking a shortcut or retrieving an item. Typically trespassers are simply people passing through a backyard or a large piece of property. In some cases, they may be unaware that they are on private property if it shares a border with public property, such as a park.
It is important to note that in most premise liability cases, it does not matter if the trespasser entered the property illegally, or if they had the intention of performing illegal acts while there.
The Property Owners’ Duty of Care
In these cases, “duty of care” is a legal term that describes the precautions a property owner must take to provide fair warning of any dangers that may be present on their land. If the homeowner knows that it is likely for a trespasser to enter their property, they may be required to give reasonable warning to prevent injury or death. This requirement is only valid to artificial conditions that the property owner has created.
Compared to an invitee or licensee, a property owner has very little duty of care to prevent injury to a trespasser. They do not have to get rid of any dangerous conditions, but the property owner may not add certain elements with the intention of trapping, injuring or killing trespassers. For example, a building that is under construction may be dangerous due to its unfinished nature. However, the property owner may not rig the building with a trap intended to injure anyone who enters.
In most cases, it is good enough for a property owner to have a sign warning any potential intruders of dangers. For example, a “Beware of Dog” sign would usually be necessary if the owner had a dog that is likely to attack. As long as the warning is reasonably visible, the property owner will most likely be legally protected against a premises liability suit.
It should be noted that these conditions do not apply to young children who may want to enter a property due to an attractive nuisance. An attractive nuisance is an object or condition that may attract a child, but the child is too young to understand the dangers of it. A good example of this would be farm equipment. A child may see a tractor and want to play on it, but it could cause serious injury or even death. As long as the farmer showed that they made some attempt of keeping children out, like having a perimeter fence, they will usually not be held liable.
Learn More From a Premises Liability Lawyer
Whether you are the victim or the property owner, the first step in a premises liability case is to determine whether the injured party is an invitee, licensee or trespasser. This determination will affect how you should proceed.
Reviewing all of the facts with an experienced attorney is highly recommended before taking legal action. Thomas D Bumgardner is a premises liability lawyer with years of knowledge from practicing these types of cases. Let’s discuss your case. Call today for a free consultation – 704.887.4981.