In most cases, property owners have a duty to keep their premises safe for those who have a right to be there. This includes taking measures to prevent injuries from occurring and quickly remedying any unsafe conditions that arise on their property. However, what happens if someone is harmed while trespassing on another person’s property. Is the property owner liable for their injuries? While it may seem like the commonsense answer is “No,” that may not always be the case. Premises liability laws in Florida can be complicated when it comes to trespassers.
The duty owed to trespassers
Florida law has spelled out circumstances in which a property owner can be immune from liability for injuries to trespassers on their property. Property owners or the controlling parties of the property, such as an organization or other person, cannot be held liable for injuries or death to a trespasser on their property if the trespasser was under the influence of alcohol (blood-alcohol content of 0.08 percent or higher) or when the trespasser was under the influence of any legal or illegal controlled substances recognized under Florida law.
However, property owners can be held liable for injuries or death to a trespasser under the following circumstances:
- A trespasser had a reason to believe that they were allowed to be on the premises and that they were welcome to be there when the injury or death occurred.
- The trespasser was a “discovered trespasser.” This means that the property owners knew that the trespasser was on the property at least 24 hours before the injury or death occurred and failed to take steps to remove the hazards or provide adequate warning to the trespassers of any dangers they may face.
- The trespasser was an “undiscovered trespasser.” This means that the property owner was not aware that the trespasser was on the premises prior to the injury or death, but acted in a negligent or intentional way that caused the trespasser harm upon discovering their presence.
Property owners are not responsible for injuries or death of trespassers who are on their property with the intention to commit a felony or were in the act of committing a felony when they sustained injury or death.
The attractive nuisance doctrine
Trespassers in Florida have very few rights, but there are some exceptions to this rule. The attractive nuisance doctrine holds property owners could be liable for injuries or death that occur to children on their property. If there is an attractive nuisance on their property (swimming pool, trampoline, swing set, etc.) and a child is injured while trying to get to the attractive nuisance or due to the attractive nuisance, the homeowner will be liable for any injuries or death. The property owner is responsible for securing any attractive nuisance or ensuring no child can assess the area of the nuisance. The attractive nuisance doctrine typically only applies to children who are harmed on another person’s premises.
Should you consult with an attorney?
Whether you are a property owner who is facing a lawsuit due to an injured trespasser, or someone who was injured while on another person’s property, you should speak to an attorney as soon as possible. Florida law concerning these cases can be complicated to understand, and a personal injury attorney will work to ensure that you understand your rights and help you formulate the best path forward for your case.