Am I Responsible for Injuries to Trespassers?

Jim Tice
Written on August 6, 2019

It stands to reason that if you invite someone on your property, you would be responsible for their injuries if there is a condition that caused it. For instance, let’s say you didn’t clear the ice on the sidewalk.

It also makes sense that you need to keep your property safe for someone that has a right to be on it, even though they weren’t invited. Someone reading a meter, delivering the mail or the newspaper, or repairing the electrical lines.

But did you know you could also be held liable for injury to trespassers? As a general principle, property owners aren’t responsible for injuries to someone who has no right to be on that property, but there are exceptions, and the law can be very complicated.

Here are some exceptions where a landowner might be liable for injuries to a trespasser:

  • A person didn’t know they were trespassing. They were lost, for example.
  • A person believed a property owner didn’t care if they trespassed. Perhaps there is a pond where people regularly fish and someone coming there just assumed people were allowed there without specific permission.
  • The trespasser is a child.
  • There is an attractive nuisance, such as a swimming pool or vacant building, that attracts people, especially children.
  • The trespasser wasn’t warned about dangers conditions, like a vicious dog.
  • Willful conduct that causes injury to the trespasser. You can’t shoot someone coming onto your land.

Your homeowners (or renters) policy has personal liability coverage that can protect you for injuries sustained by people coming on to your property, invited or not. (However, injury caused intentionally is excluded.) We suggest a minimum limit of coverage of $500,000.

If you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to contact us at (317) 253-1155 or hereforyou@capitolins.com.