An injured guest, customer or trespasser may be able to bring a personal injury lawsuit against you. Depending on how the person was injured and what their status was on your property, you could be held liable.
Generally, the law requires landowners to maintain their property the way a reasonable person would. When the landowner fails to do so or breaches their duty of care to those entering their property, they may be negligent.
Some states complicate this duty of care requirement by varying the landowner’s responsibility based on the status of the visitor. Thus, if the visitor is invited, such as a guest or customer, then the duty of care may be higher than a trespasser.
Can My Social Guests Sue Me?
Typically, invited guests must be warned of any hidden dangers on your property. However, you usually do not owe a duty to inspect your property for any such dangers. So, if you are aware of any potential hazards, tell your guests.
Can My Customers Sue Me?
This category of visitors usually enjoy the highest standard of care. These include open businesses such as stores and public facilities such as libraries. Even if a visitor does not purchase your product or service, they are still entitled to the standard of care while visiting your property.
Like the social guest, landowners must make customers aware of any hidden dangers such as uneven floors or slippery surfaces. However, in addition to that warning, landowners must inspect their property and make reasonable repairs to any dangerous conditions for their customers.
Can a Trespasser Sue Me?
Unfortunately, an uninvited visitor is entitled to a certain duty of care. Though, it is less than the duty owed to your invited guests. Like the social guest, a landowner has a duty to warn of a danger on the property to any discovered trespasser, or trespassers they can anticipate.
This warning can take the form of a sign at the entry of the property. Additionally, landowners cannot create a hazardous trap for potential trespassers that would cause the trespasser harm.
Landowners owe no duty to trespassers to repair any dangerous condition or a duty to inspect the property for such dangers. For the undiscovered trespasser, the landowner only owes the duty of not intentionally trapping or harming the trespasser.
What About Child Trespassers?
Child trespassers are the exception to the general duties regarding trespassers. The attractive nuisance doctrine protects child trespassers from objects or features on a land that attract children to the land and has dangers that are not expected due to the child’s inability to appreciate the risk.
Examples include pools, abandoned vehicles, and trampolines. Whether the child is able to appreciate the risk is determined on a case by case basis in most jurisdictions. The landowner also must have been able to foresee this risk to a potential child trespasser if they are to be successfully sued.
The duty of the landowner is to exercise reasonable care in eliminating or substantially reducing the risk to the trespassing child.
Should I Consult a Lawyer?
A local personal injury lawyer can help you learn about what duty you owe if you have a hazardous feature on your property to avoid future liability. If someone has been injured on your property a lawyer can advise and defend you in the event you are sued.