December 18, 2017
Unfortunately, there is no concrete answer to this question and it must be answered on a case by case basis. In order to figure out whether or not you are responsible for a trespasser’s injury that occurred on your property, you need to understand what a trespasser is, the two different kinds of trespassers, and the duties of you as a property owner to a trespasser and vice versa. Per the definition, a trespasser is anyone who sets foot on another individual’s property without first obtaining the owner of the property’s permission. The two different types of trespassers are discovered and undiscovered trespassers, and we will describe these in further detail below.
Property Owner’s Duty to Trespassers
Often times, jurisdictions stand by the concept that a property owner does not owe a trespasser any special duty of care for their well being. However, this is not always the case for landowners who have trespassers injured on their property unbeknownst to them. Undiscovered trespassers are classified as individuals who trespass without the consent or knowledge of the landowner. For these kind of trespassers, landowners must refrain from acting out against the trespasser. As a landowner, you cannot shoot a gun at a stranger who has trespassed on your property but poses no immediate threat to your safety. On the opposite side, discovered trespassers are known as individuals who the property owner is aware is stepping onto their property without permission. Property owners should also use caution when dealing with discovered trespassers; this means that they should protect the discovered trespasser from any form of foreseeable harm that leads up to the front door but is not responsible for anywhere else.
Trespasser’s Duty to Property Owner
The duty of a trespasser to the property owner is to not enter their premise without proper authorization. If this occurs, the trespasser is already in the wrong once they enter another individual’s property without their consent or permission. A trespasser can still, surprisingly, make a claim against the property owner for injuries and sue for damages. In fact, there are a few states that abide by the rule that if a trespasser incurs a serious injury, they will reassess who is properly at fault; the trespasser or the landowner.
If you are wondering whether or not you as a property owner can be held liable for a trespasser’s injuries that were inflicted on your property without your knowledge, the answer can be determined by considering the duties of each of the concerned parties. You should seek legal counsel such as the criminal lawyer Phoenix AZ locals turn to if you think that the trespasser may come after you with a lawsuit or just to solely protect yourself. The laws regarding trespassers are very complicated and without an attorney, it can be difficult to assess if you will be charged as the party at fault if you do not contact one.
Thanks to authors at Lorona Mead for their insight into Criminal Law.