Can a Trespasser Sue for Injury?

A trespasser can only sue for injury in a few limited circumstances. For example, if you trespass on someone’s property and suffer injuries in a slip and fall, you likely will be unable to recover compensation. However, there are certain circumstances that might warrant an injury claim.

Does it Matter Why a Person is on the Property?

Yes. Georgia law imposes different duties of care on landowners, depending on whether the person on their property is:

  • An invitee (i.e., a person invited or induced to enter the property for a lawful purpose, such as a contractor or a shopper going into a store): Property owners must remedy or warn invitees of any hazards on the property. They must also perform regular searches of the property to ensure there are no hazards present.
  • A licensee (i.e., someone who is on the property strictly for their own benefit, such as a social guest or a person who goes into a store to use the restroom): Property owners must remedy or warn licensees of hazards.
  • A trespasser (i.e., someone on the property without express or implied permission): A landowner has very little legal responsibility to a trespasser.

When Can a Trespasser Sue for Injuries?

Landowners do not have any legal responsibility to go out of their way to keep trespassers safe. However, there are certain circumstances that could make a homeowner liable for injuries that result:

Intentional injury. It is illegal in Georgia for a landowner to injure a trespasser intentionally. This legal prohibition includes laying traps to injure trespassers. Homeowners are also not allowed to shoot trespassers, unless the trespasser is presenting a credible threat of harm.

If you posed no credible threat of harm and the property owner purposefully injured you, you might have a valid assault and battery claim.

In limited cases, you might be able to file a negligent security case if you were the victim of assault or battery by a third party while trespassing.

For example, say you were cutting through an apartment complex while walking home from work. You do not live there so technically you are trespassing. However, the apartment complex owners know people who do not live on the premises commonly walk through there. While walking through the complex, a group of people beats you up and takes your wallet. You may be able to file a claim against the complex.

Child Trespassers. Homeowners have a higher duty of care to protect young children from potentially attractive objects on their property (e.g., swimming pools, trampolines, abandoned vehicles). For example, Sally has an unfenced swimming pool on her property. She knows young children from the neighborhood commonly walk by her house on the way home from school. If a child injures herself trying to swim in the pool, Sally might be liable for those injuries.

This is due to the attractive nuisance law which holds that younger children do not have the mental capacity to understand the dangers that trespassing on someone’s property might pose.

Known Trespassers. While homeowners have no duty of care to unknown trespassers, they do need to warn known trespassers of hazards. For example, John knows high school students cut through his backyard on the way to and from school. If he allows his dangerous dog to roam the property and does not erect a warning sign, he might be liable for any injuries the students suffer in a dog attack.

Call S. Burke Law to Discuss Your Injury Case

If you or your child suffered harm on someone else’s property, the team at S. Burke Law wants to help you. Call us today at 404-842-7838 to discuss your case with us.

During your free consultation, we will help you determine if you have a valid case and create a plan of action for getting the compensation you need to cover your injuries and other losses. We can determine your legal status at the time of your injury and create defenses against any accusations of trespassing.