If Someone Trespasses on My Property and Gets Hurt Am I Liable?

The last thing you expect is that someone will trespass on your property. However, the reality is that it is not uncommon for people to go into places or onto a property that is not theirs. Trespassing is generally considered a crime, but what happens if a trespasser gets hurt while they are on your property?

Injuries to trespassers can become a challenging area of premises liability law. In most situations, we will find that the property owner will not be held liable, but that is not always the case. Here, our Irvine premises liability lawyers discuss this issue so that you have a general understanding of what you need to do to protect yourself from having to pay compensation to trespassers.

Why Would a Property Owner Be Held Liable in These Situations?

Believe it or not, there are instances where property owners could be held liable for injuries that occur to trespassers on their premises. There are various aspects of premises liability law that some people may find questionable, including paying trespassers for injuries.

What we will find that, in most situations, property owners will not be responsible for trespasser injuries. After all, they are trespassing. So, if a person decides to come onto your property and climb a tree in the middle of the night, you should not be held responsible if they fall and break their leg. Property owners cannot be expected to anticipate most types of trespassers, and they should not be held responsible for injuries in typical situations.

The situation does get murky when property owners have trespassers on their land with regularity. If a property owner comes to expect continued trespassing, this expectation does come with heightened liability issues. Because property owners can anticipate that a dangerous condition on their property would pose hazards to these routine trespassers, it may now be possible for a property owner to be held responsible for injuries if they occur.

In general, we will find that property owners will be responsible for posting signs that warn expected trespassers of hazardous conditions. This may seem like a burden, but it is the reality of owning property.

Willful and Wanton Conduct

After a property owner posts signs warning trespassers of danger, can the property owner then do whatever they want on their property? Can they decide to go out and plant landmines or shoot off automatic weapons all over the property?

In most situations, the answer will be no.

Property owners are expected to refrain from engaging in what is called “willful and wanton” conduct that causes injuries to trespassers. For example, suppose a person owns a house where they do not live, but they keep furniture stored. If there has been a series of thefts at the house because people have discovered that nobody lives there, suppose the owner places a trap at the door that will cause an explosion next time a person breaks in. The next time a person breaks in, suppose that a trespasser triggers the trap and blows the explosive, causing extensive trauma to their leg.

In this situation, the property owner will likely be held liable for injuries to the trespasser. Deadly force can almost never be used to protect your property in this way. Homeowners are allowed to use deadly force to protect themselves or other people. Had that trespasser broken into a home where a person lived, then the homeowner would have been able to defend themselves and their family with deadly force if necessary.