Trespassing on another person’s property can be a crime. However, there are circumstances when a property owner can be liable for a trespasser’s injuries that occurred during a trespassing episode.
While this might seem like an unlikely wrinkle in the law, if you’ve been injured while trespassing on someone else’s property, understand how you might be eligible for compensation.
Circumstances You May Recover Damages if Injured While Trespassing
Yes, you can possibly file a claim even if you were injured while trespassing. However, there are some limitations to this possibility that you should consider.
The following guidelines govern whether an insurer, judge or jury may find a property owner liable in the case of a trespasser’s injury claim.
- Property owner discovered trespassers. The argument against compensating injured trespassers is that the property owner cannot predict the presence of a trespasser in order to warn or protect him or her from harm. While this is frequently the case, in some cases the trespasser regularly uses the property for a specific reason and the owner is aware of it.
- An example of this scenario would be when someone consistently crosses another’s property to reach a destination. This could include children who cross someone’s yard to get to the bus stop, or hikers who cross someone’s property to get to a trail. In these cases, the owner would be reasonably aware of the likelihood of a trespassing situation and could be liable for injuries caused by dangerous and unmarked hazards.
- Willful and wanton conduct. This refers to dangerous activities, that even when a property is posted with warnings to trespassers, pose such a threat that they can be determined as negligent. An example might be failing to mark an electric fence as electric.
What could keep me from being able to file a claim?
Typically, if you meet the criteria for either situation described previously, you should consider speaking with an attorney familiar with property owner liability law. However, there are some circumstances that will make it difficult for you to recover damages in a trespassing injury case.
- If you were committing a crime. If you were participating in illegal activities at the time of injury, you will find it very difficult to convince anybody that you should recover damages if injured while trespassing. For example, if you were breaking and entering into someone’s home and the homeowner shot you in what he or she perceived to be self-defense, you may find it difficult to recover damages.
- If your activity is considered risky or dangerous. Activities such as ATV riding could be construed as risky behavior that would not warrant a personal injury case against a property owner. For example, if you are crossing someone else’s property and have an accident on your ATV, you would be more successful in filing a claim with your ATV insurance than against the homeowner.
- An exception to this rule might be if the homeowner purposely created a hazard of some type (such as a ditch covered with sticks and leaves to purposefully hurt you).
Children Injured While Trespassing and Attractive Nuisance
Children injured while trespassing may be eligible to recover damages if they entered the property because of an attractive nuisance. A common example is a swimming pool. If the property owner failed to secure it (with a fence, locking gate, etc.), and the children entered without permission and became hurt, then they may still qualify to recover damages.
Cordisco & Saile LLC Can Help with Your Property Liability Case
If you were injured while trespassing on someone else’s property and feel you might have grounds to file a claim for your injuries, you may need legal representation. Cordisco & Saile LLC can help injured parties in Pennsylvania. Call us today at 215-642-2335 or contact us online to schedule your free consultation.