If someone gets injured on your property, whether it’s commercial or residential, they have the right to sue you. But of course, that does not necessarily mean that you are accountable for the injury. Several factors to consider in a personal injury lawsuit can tell if you are indeed guilty of negligence. For instance, your liability may depend on the actual status of the victim. You will most likely be less liable if the injured person is a trespasser and not a welcomed guest.
But in a general point of view, the law mandates landowners to keep their properties safe for everyone. If the owner fails to comply or violates their duty of care to the people entering their property, they can be liable for negligence.
As mentioned earlier, an owner’s duty of care will depend on the injured person’s status. The liability for personal injury is often higher for individuals invited to the property. People who went inside without permission may not have a chance of winning a lawsuit.
Can Your Guests Sue You?
Property owners have a legal responsibility to provide adequate care (and home and land maintenance) for anyone they invite to their homes. The main objective of this law is to ensure that the property is safe from any dangerous circumstances. This specific responsibility is also called “premises liability.” What is it? Premises liability law refers to the regulations which govern homeowners’ liability for personal injuries.
But keep in mind that your liability is determined by a few factors, particularly how the individual entered the property. Generally, there are three categories for duty of care, which are:
- A licensee is someone coming into the property for social or personal purposes.
- An invitee is an individual invited for business purposes.
- A trespasser is a person who has entered the property without authorization.
Relatively, owners must inform invited visitors of any possible dangers found inside the property’s premises. Knowing such information can keep them safe from harm. Doing so can also be your advantage if they still get injured despite your warning.
However, if you are well aware of the hazard and decide not to tell your guests, they can use that to file a personal injury lawsuit. Lawsuits like this may take one to two years. But if the victim consulted a process server company, the whole process could be shortened.
Can Trespassers Sue You?
It’s a different scenario when the person injured is a trespasser. Property owners generally do not owe trespassers a duty to protect. However, homeowners cannot intentionally injure trespassers. For instance, if the property owner is aware of frequent trespassing in his property and deliberately places something on the premises that will injure someone, he can be held liable.
Here are some circumstances that may hold a property owner liable:
- There is danger somewhere in the house because the property owner maintained or created it.
- The hazardous environment can cause death or significant bodily harm.
- The landowner fails to exercise the duty of care to warn about the hazard around the premises.
You don’t necessarily have to warn trespassers per se. This means that you need to put up a warning sign at the entry point of the property. Here are some examples:
- No trespassing
- Beware of dogs
- Electrical hazard
- Overhead power lines
How About Child Trespassers?
The guidelines we mentioned above can change if the trespassers are children. Child trespassers are the exception to the general duties concerning trespassers. Property owners have the duty to inspect their properties to ensure that it is safe and fix any potential hazards. The landowner is expected to exercise adequate care to reduce or possibly eliminate the risk to the trespassing children.
In addition, the attractive nuisance doctrine provides protection for child trespassers from features or objects in the area that encourage the child to enter the property. The property owner may be held accountable since the child does not fully understand the risk of the object that attracts them. Some examples of this include abandoned vehicles, swimming pools, and trampolines.
Regardless of the child’s understanding of the risk, it will still be determined on a case-by-case basis in jurisdictions. Furthermore, landowners must be able to identify features in their properties that may attract children and thus take precautionary measures to ensure that kids will not get anywhere near it.
However, the landowners can hold the child’s parents liable for civil damages, especially if the child damaged something in the property.
Lastly, landowners must always have a professional lawyer to rely on in cases like this. A lawyer can help you understand the duty of care you owe to the victim and help you avoid future liability problems.