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Trespasser Personal Injury on Private Property

What Happens if a Trespasser Gets Hurt on Your Property?


In the past, California law stated that landlords or property owners were required to maintain a safe environment for their guests or “invitees.” An “invitee” is a person who the owner “invited” onto their property, such as a personal guest, family and friends, business invitees, government workers and others that were personally invited either directly or implicitly. An example is of a gardener and his assistants.

It is always the responsibility of the landlord or owner to inspect the property and purge it of all its potentially dangerous hazards. However, the law has evolved and you may now find yourself liable for the injuries of a trespasser.

The personal injury attorneys at West Coast Trial Lawyers have won over $1 billion dollars for their clients and can help maximize your insurance claim. We are here to answer any questions you may have about premises liability claims you may have.

Duty of Care

Formerly, California stated that it was the responsibility of the landlord or property owner to provide a reasonably safe space, even if the property is not open to the general public. For instance, if a building is under construction, it is the owner’s responsibility to warn the public about possible hazards. This can be done through visible signage and it is meant as a warning for people who are not working on the property. For trespassers, however, common law once stated that the landowner has no liability or duty to those who enter the premises illegally. This is no longer true. 

California Premises Liability and Trespassers

If Someone Trespasses on My Property Am I Liable

According to current law, landowners must provide a reasonable amount of safety for all people who enter their property, regardless of status. This means that if a person who enters a property is injured, whether they are invited, a worker, or a trespasser, the landowner will be held liable.

The reason the person is on the property does matter. For example, if you post appropriate signage, you may be less liable to an injured thief than an injured worker. This is because the landowner can have an affirmative defense against the injured plaintiff proving they were committing a felony at the time.

Defending Against a Trespasser

When you are on your property, you have every right to defend yourself against an intruder. The courts consider residential burglary as a dangerous crime because it is potentially life-threatening and can escalate very quickly.

There have been many instances where homeowners have shot intruders and have been relieved of liability in court. California Legal Analyst Steve Meister explains, “The myth is that if you shoot someone outside your house, you drag them back in so that you are protected by the law.” He continued, “If you’re a homeowner, inside your home, the person is no longer there. But if he’s fleeing, he turns around and suddenly reaches for his waistband and you believe your life is in danger, again, you don’t have to sit there and wait to see what’s going to happen next.”

However, there are many cases where a trespasser has sued a homeowner.

Available Damages

Accidents happen. If you were injured as a result of someone else’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation for your losses. Below is a brief explanation of damages. Damages are a type of monetary award that is determined by a court of law to help compensate an aggrieved individual for any losses or injuries sustained as a result of someone’s negligence.

Economic Damages

Economic damages are intended to compensate a plaintiff for losses that a dollar amount can readily be attached to. Economic damages are calculated by determining the amount of out-of-pocket losses an aggrieved individual has or will expect to incur as a result of their injuries.

A few examples of economic losses include:

  • Loss of Earning Capacity
  • Medical Bills
  • Lost Wages

Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages are essentially intended to cover losses that are thought of as subjective and will not necessarily cover out-of-pocket losses. Non-economic damages may include compensation for:

  • Emotional Distress
  • Pain and Suffering
  • Loss of Enjoyment of Life

Punitive Damages

The third type of damages a California court may award are known as punitive damages. Punitive damages are intended as punishment and are only awarded when a defendant’s behavior is especially harmful. Punitive damages are relatively rare and in fact were only incorporated in 5 percent of all verdicts.

Furthermore, there is no real set standard for calculating and awarding punitive damages. Punitive damages are awarded at the court’s discretion and will vary depending on the specific circumstances of a case.

Contact Us to Find Out How We Can Help

If you have sustained injuries in the city of Los Angeles as a result of a premises liability accident, an attorney at our firm can help you recover financial compensation for the losses you have suffered, including medical bills, property damage, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Call us today at (213) 927-3700 or email [email protected] to schedule a free consultation with our experienced, caring, and compassionate legal team.

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