Can You Be Sued if a Trespasser Injures Themselves on Your Property?

July 6th, 2020

Have you ever heard the rumor about a burglar getting injured while breaking into someone’s home or business, and then suing for their injuries? How likely is this situation? Could it ever happen? Would they ever win?

The short answer is, no. They could try, but they wouldn’t get far.

In most circumstances, property owners are required to protect visitors on their properties, whether those are guests at their homes or customers at their businesses. This means actively identifying any potential hazards and either removing the hazards or sufficiently warning visitors about them if they can’t be removed.

This legal duty to protect visitors from hazards doesn’t apply to trespassers. However, you may still have a responsibility to warn potential trespassers of hazards if you know there is a high probability your home or business will be broken into. Think of a “Beware of Dog” sign as an example of this. 

Are There Exceptions?

There are two big exceptions to this rule where you may still be held liable for a trespasser’s injuries.

Intentional Injuries

Trespassers can’t sue you for injuries they incur from accidents, such as slipping and falling on your property. However, if you injure the trespasser intentionally, such as by setting out booby traps like in Home Alone, then you won’t be protected by the law.

For example, have you ever seen a sign saying, “Private Property: Trespassers Will Be Shot”? Posting this sign is not a legal defense for shooting someone. Even Louisiana’s Stand Your Ground laws say you have to believe your life is in danger before acting in a violent manner. Someone simply entering your property isn’t enough. 

Child Trespassers

Most states, including Louisiana, have something called Attractive Nuisance laws. These laws say that children are not capable of recognizing danger and can be expected to trespass to get to something that is attractive to them, such as swimming pools and trampolines.

Other examples of property that may qualify as Attractive Nuisances are playgrounds, treehouses, dangerous animals, and construction sites. If it looks like it could be a fun place to play, consider it an attractive nuisance.

This means that property owners have a legal duty to take extra precautions to keep children out and safe from the danger. Installing a fence with a locked gate that can’t be easily opened or climbed by children is a good example of how to protect yourself from liability in this type of trespassing case.

What’s Needed for a Premises Liability Compensation Claim?

To successfully file a lawsuit after being hurt on someone else’s property, an injured person will need to prove the following:

  • They were injured by a dangerous condition on the property.
  • They were on the property legally (excluding the exceptions discussed above).
  • The property owner knew about the dangerous condition, or at least should have known (for example, after a strong storm, it’s reasonable to assume there may be downed tree limbs or power lines).
  • The property owner didn’t do anything to remove the danger after learning about it, or didn’t take steps quickly enough to prevent someone from being injured.

At Dudley DeBosier, Your Case Consultation Is Free

Many injury victims hesitate to get legal representation because they are afraid they can’t afford it, especially when they may already be going into debt over their injury-related expenses. At Dudley DeBosier Injury Lawyers, we never charge for initial consultations, and even after hiring our team, you pay us nothing unless we win.

Contact us today to talk about your case.