If a person trespasses onto your property and gets injured, can you be held responsible for the accident? This is a complicated question that cannot be answered by a simple Yes or No. To determine whether or not you are liable for a trespasser’s injury, let us define who a trespasser is, the duties of a property owner and trespasser, and other issues.
Who Is a Trespasser?
According to the law, a trespasser is anyone who sets foot on another person’s premises without the owner’s invitation or permission. The act of trespass is interference with someone’s person, property, or rights.
A Landowner’s Duty to Trespassers
Many jurisdictions stand by the common law concept that a landowner does not owe a trespasser any special duty of care for their safety or well-being. However, this should not be taken to mean all landowners do not owe any trespassers any duty.
- A landowner owes a duty of care to an undiscovered trespasser. This is a person who trespasses without the knowledge of the landowner.
- For such trespassers, the landowner must refrain from acting in a careless or willful manner. For example, you cannot intentionally fire a gun at a stranger who trespasses on your property but poses no obvious or immediate threat to one’s safety.
- A landowner also owes a duty of care to a discovered trespasser. This is someone who the landowner knew was stepping in to their property without their permission.
- The landowner should exercise ordinary care when dealing with such trespassers. This means they should protect the discovered trespasser from foreseeable harm like tripping over an obstacle on a path that leads to their front door.
A Trespasser’s Duty to Landowners
A trespasser’s duty towards a landowner is to not enter their property without the owner’s authorization. In this scenario, a trespasser is already wrong when they enter another person’s property without their permission. However, a trespasser may still be able to make claims for injuries and monetary damages.
- In many states, if a trespasser sustains a serious injury, the court will determine who had the greater fault for the accident: the trespasser or the landowner.
- In states that observe the concept of contributory negligence, if the trespasser is found to be even 1% responsible for their injuries, they lose their right to recover damages.
- In states that observe the concept of pure comparative negligence, a trespasser can recover damages even when they are 99% responsible for their injuries. In comparative fault states, the trespasser will receive damages in accordance with their share of blame. For example, if the trespasser is awarded $100,000 in damages but the court finds that the trespasser was 50% responsible for their own injuries, they shall be awarded $50,000.
The Duty of Third Parties on the Property
A good example of a third party on the landowner’s property is a casual worker. If a worker on the landowner’s property recklessly leaves a hole lying open and covers it with tarp without erecting any warning sign, they can be held liable for the injuries sustained by a trespasser who steps on the tarp and falls in the hole.
- However, the worker will not be solely liable for the trespasser’s injuries.
- Both the third party and the landowner of the property owed the trespasser a duty of reasonable care.
- They both are liable because they failed to take any measures to protect the trespasser from harm like by erecting a warning sign.
The question of whether or not you can be held liable for a trespasser’s injuries sustained on your property can only be determined by considering the duties of each of the concerned parties. The laws regarding trespassers are quite complex and without legal counsel it can be difficult to understand your liability. It is advisable to consult with an experienced professional such as the personal injury lawyer Minneapolis MN locals turn to is conversant with premises liability and who will be able to outline your options with regards to a trespasser’s personal injury case.
Thanks to authors at Johnston Martineau PLLP for their insight into Personal Injury Law.