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March 13th, 2020

Who Is Liable if a Trespasser Gets Injured on Your Property?

Trespassing is the act of entering a property without permission from the owner or an authority. A person who is unaware of property boundaries can trespass accidentally, but trespassing with illegal intent like burglary is criminal. In some cases, like trespassing to cut down trees or dump waste without permission, it’s categorized as a civil wrong.

Who’s Liable for Trespasser Injuries?

In most cases, the property owner isn’t liable for injury to a trespasser. For example, if a person is hurt while jumping a fence to enter the property, the owner isn’t liable. However, if the owner aggresses against the trespasser or shows what’s known as “gross negligence,” they may be considered at least partially liable.

Gross Negligence and Liability

When someone knowingly acts without a reasonable degree of care despite being aware of the risks, it is considered grossly negligent. Gross negligence often involves intentionally taking careless action, but the willful ignorance of a known danger can also be considered grossly negligent.

Examples:

  • A trespasser is directly injured by the owner’s reckless use of explosives or firearms on their property.
  • When the trespasser is discovered, the property owner becomes violent and injures them.
  • The trespasser is injured by something the property owner knew was a risk and failed to fix or warn people about.
    • In the 2006 Texas case of State v. Shumake, a girl drowned after being sucked into a hidden culvert while tubing in a state park. Although she did not have permission to be there, they were able to show that the park was liable as they knew about the danger and did not address it.¹

Preventing and Responding to Trespasser Injuries

Although trespassers are wrong to enter property without permission, two wrongs don’t make a right. Here’s how you can avoid trouble and liability:

  • Set up fences and/or clearly mark your property line to prevent accidental trespassing.
  • If you’re aware of risks on your property, take action to correct them or warn people.
  • Do not become aggressive or violent toward trespassers, even if you are confident that their intent was criminal.
  • Don’t make threats, especially if there is a reasonable possibility that their trespass was accidental. Take the high road and avoid the perception of impropriety.
  • If a trespasser is injured on your property, contact a personal injury law firm right away. Even if you’re positive you aren’t legally liable, it’s a good idea to check with a lawyer and have representation available in the case of a lawsuit.

Trust the Personal Injury Lawyers at Schechter, Shaffer & Harris, L.L.P., Accident & Injury Lawyers

If someone is injured while trespassing on your property, we can help you determine liability and build a defense against a lawsuit. With free initial consultations and more than 100 years of combined trial experience, we strive to be among the top personal injury lawyers in the Houston area.

Contact us to schedule an appointment today.

Source:

  1. https://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=5956310616487262290&q=State+v.+Shumake&hl=en&as_sdt=2006&as_vis=1
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