If people suffer injuries during the commission of a crime, they may still have grounds to sue for compensatory damages. Going onto other people’s property or entering their homes without permission may constitute trespassing, a criminal offense. Therefore, people often think they have no recourse should they suffer injuries while trespassing.
Exceptions to the Rule
Exceptions exist in known trespasser, booby trap, deadly force, and attractive nuisance situations that may allow those who suffer injuries while trespassing to recover compensation for their associated losses. Under most circumstances, homeowners must take reasonable steps to make certain those who come onto their property remain safe. For example, this may include implementing measures to avoid slip and fall hazards such as debris, puddles, or ice. Since trespassers have no right to enter a homeowner’s property, they typically have no rights to safeguarding from such dangers. In some cases, however, homeowners may have a duty of care to invited and uninvited guests alike.
In cases of a frequent trespasser or trespasser, homeowners may have to warn of potential property dangers or face liability for injuries resulting from those hazards. For instance, people regularly cross a person’s property to get to the entrance of a hiking trail. The property owner knows that people cross the property, but has failed to post signs indicating potential hazards, such as slippery rock surfaces. A hiker slips on the surface and breaks his ankle. Although trespassing at the time of the accident, the homeowner may have financial responsibility for the hiker’s injury.
Willful or Wanton Conduct
Those injured during a robbery or another alleged criminal offense may have a right to recover compensation if the homeowner’s willful and wanton conduct caused their injuries. For example, to protect against trespassers, a homeowner digs a ditch and covers it or installs tripwires. A burglar comes onto the property without permission and falls into the ditch, suffering a traumatic brain injury. Although the burglar intended to commit a crime, the homeowner may still be liable for the resulting injury and associated losses.
If homeowners use deadly force against trespassers when their lives are not in imminent danger, then the trespassers may have grounds to pursue financial compensation for their injury-associated losses. Some states allow people to use deadly force, such as firing a weapon at another person, in self-defense. However, homeowners cannot use force that reasonable people would consider likely to cause serious bodily harm or death to protect their personal property.
Attractive nuisance statutes typically serve to protect children who suffer injuries while trespassing. If a child enters a property without permission in pursuit of an attractive nuisance, such as a swimming pool or trampoline, and suffers an injury, then the homeowner may have a responsibility to pay the resulting damages. For instance, a child wanders into a neighbor’s yard. Unable to swim, the child suffers a near-drowning in the pool, which had no fence and was not otherwise locked. A court may find the homeowner should compensate the child for his or her medical expenses, pain and suffering, and other associated damages.