Are You Responsible for Trespasser Injuries?
Generally, if someone is sneaking onto your property, the answer to this question is no. Most often, a trespasser intrudes unannounced and perhaps with malicious intent. In only very rare cases would a property owner be responsible for the injuries incurred by a trespasser. However, there are some instances in which a property owner should beware.
They are free of blame unless:
- The property owner has caused injury to the intruder by acting violently or aggressively. For example, it is illegal for a property owner to use deadly force on a trespasser unless they feel that their life is being threatened. However, they are allowed to chase an intruder away, using reasonable force.
The property owner has acted in gross negligence or had some reason to expect the intruder. This indicates that they either had a serious hazard on their property to which they did not attend or that they were aware that passerbyers often walk through their property. For owners of large pieces of land, it is especially important to take note of parts of their property that might be mistaken for public use.
Should you post a no-trespassing sign on your property?
- If you own a large portion of land, it might be wise to help distinguish what belongs to you with signs. Otherwise, it can be easy for people on public land to wander onto yours unknowingly. Help others understand these boundaries with a clear and simple sign announcing your private land. A fence can also serve to communicate that your land is not for public use. These indications might be particularly valuable as some cases will not consider an action to be trespassing without verbal or written notification.
- Report the incident to the local police.
- Call emergency services and make sure that they receive help. While you have no obligation to maintain their safety, you must act responsibly if they are injured. Do not act maliciously and deny offering assistance. So, do whatever you can to help them.
- Reach out to an attorney concerning your risk of a lawsuit. If your property was not clearly marked or improperly kept, you might require legal advocacy.
If you expect regular “trespassers” on your property, you need to make sure that there are no serious hazards to them. For example, if you don’t mind the regular group of children who cut through your yard every day on their way to school, be sure to keep your property reasonably safe. Do not act in negligence toward your property and be sure that people are aware of your boundary lines.