We’ve all heard urban legends about a burglar entering a home, getting hurt, and suing the owners.
Like all such stories, these tales are usually blown out of proportion. Generally, a trespasser is responsible forth their own actions. For instance, imagine you dropped a glass in the kitchen, but you didn’t have time to clean it up. You decide to leave it there and deal with it when you get home. If a burglar cuts themselves on this glass, they don’t have a strong case for a lawsuit.
Many urban legends do, however, have a nugget of truth in them. A trespasser can sue you if they were hurt on your property.
Here are the two main reasons why.
Your Space Is Unreasonably Dangerous
Even trespassers have a right to safety.
If your property is inherently dangerous, you could be held liable for a trespasser’s injuries. This fact does not necessarily apply to houses that are run down and in need of repair.
An “unreasonable danger,” legally, is something you would not predict. More specifically, you cannot set up traps for a trespasser without a clear warning sign.
People hang “beware of dog” or “bear traps present” or other warnings to protect themselves. They aren’t necessarily concerned about the welfare of any potential trespasser. The landowner is keeping themselves free from liability, clearly alerting any trespassers to enter at their own risk.
Your Space Could Attract Curious Children
The law is often highly protective of children. It assumes that they aren’t reasonable enough to consider the consequences of their actions.
As such, it has created the “attractive nuisance” doctrine. Put simply, there may be something on your property that is both dangerous to children, and it also arouses their curiosity. Examples include swimming pools, empty refrigerators, broken-down cars, etc. If a child wanders onto your property and hurts themselves on something they think looks fun, you could be held responsible.
Unfortunately, the term “attractive nuisance” is vague. There is no list you can consult that will directly tell you whether you have a nuisance on your property. You can only look over your grounds and ask yourself, “Is there anything here that kids would want to play with?” If the answer is “yes,” then you probably have an attractive nuisance.
Barriers are the best protection against an attractive nuisance. A good fence, gate, wall, etc. will protect both you and any outside children. These barriers must be sound and secure. If a child could squeeze through a hole in your fence, you could still be held responsible for their injuries.
Trespassers are responsible for their own actions, and they can face prosecution for entering your property. However, you could be held liable for any injuries they sustain. Stay smart, keep your grounds safe, and speak with a good attorney when you must.
Samra Dhillon & Associates can help with your personal injury concerns. For a free consultation, call us today at (916) 571-1550 or contact us online.