Q: Can I file a premises liability case if I was trespassing?
Yes, in some cases, you can file a premises liability case if you were trespassing at the time of the accident. However, because property owners do not owe a general duty of care to trespassers, it is more difficult for trespassers to win premises liability claims than it is for people who were invited on the property. For help with your premises liability claim, call the Law Office of Jason R. Schultz, P.C.: 404-474-0804.
When are property owners liable for accidents that happen on their property?
O.C.G.A. § 51-3-1 requires property owners to keep their land and buildings in a reasonably safe condition or to at least warn visitors of any dangerous conditions, depending on the type of visitor. There are three types of visitors:
Invited Guests: These are individuals that the property owner explicitly invited onto the property, often for a business-related purpose. Customers in a store are an example of invited guests.
Licensees: These are individuals that the property owner has allowed, but not explicitly invited, to enter. This can include someone who comes in off the street to use the bathroom, or who enters to premises to sell something. Social guests are also licensees.
Trespasser: These people have no right to be on the premises as they have not been invited or allowed onto the property.
If I have no right to be on the property, how can I hold the owner liable?
Property owners are under no obligation to compensate trespassers for injuries they sustained while trespassing on their land. However, there are several exceptions to this rule. In certain situations, trespassers are entitled to compensation from the property owner for their injuries. These situations might include:
Known Trespassers: Although property owners generally are not liable for injuries to trespassers, if the owner becomes aware of trespasser they have a duty to exercise reasonable care to avoid injuring the trespasser. For example, if a homeowner knows a group of teenagers passes through his yard every day and does nothing to stop them, the homeowner must at least warn the trespasser of any hazards that are not obvious.
In addition, the owner cannot take actions against a trespasser (such as setting up booby traps like trip wires) and they are required by law to warn those trespassers of any potential dangers (such as an electric fence).
For example, consider the same homeowner from our earlier example. If that homeowner hid a trip wire in the grass and caused one of the teens to suffer an injury, he would be liable for any costs related to the injury.
Children: Another exception for trespassers concerns children. Under attractive nuisance laws, property owners may be liable for damages to child trespassers if they have an attractive nuisance on their property.
An attractive nuisance is a man-made dangerous condition or object that would encourage a child to come onto the property and potentially injure themselves. Examples of attractive nuisances include swimming pools, abandoned cars, or large items that children could climb on.
For example, if a child enters a stranger’s backyard and uses their pool, the property owner will be liable for any injuries (including death by drowning) that child suffers. The property owner is liable because young children do not have the maturity to understand the dangers of trespassing on another person’s property.
What do I have to do to file a premises liability claim?
In order to successfully recover compensation from a property owner for injuries that you sustained while on their land, you must either prove that you were not trespassing or that you fall into one of these exceptions. A premises liability attorney at the Law Office of Jason R. Schultz, P.C. will review the facts of your case and ensure that you get the compensation you deserve.
Contact the Law Office of Jason R. Schultz, PC at 404-474-0804 today to set up your free, initial consultation.