When Trespassers Pursue Compensation for Premises Liability
Property owners and managers in Georgia have a duty of care under premises law. They must take reasonable steps to maintain their property in a safe condition to prevent harm to visitors. When someone is injured on a property, the owner’s level of responsibility depends on whether that person entered the property lawfully and the purpose for entering. Trespassers can only pursue compensation for premises liability under certain circumstances.
What Are Georgia’s Premises Liability Laws?
Property owners and occupiers can be held liable for injuries caused by a dangerous condition existing on a property. They have a duty of care to visitors, but the level of care depends on the class of visitor:
- Invitees: These are visitors who have received an express or implied invitation to enter the premises for the benefit of the owner. Examples of invitees include diners at a restaurant, shoppers in a retail store, and guests at a hotel or motel. Property owners have a duty to invitees to maintain the premises in a reasonably safe condition and adequately warn of any potential hazard.
- Licensees: A licensee is a person who enters a premises lawfully but is not a customer, patron, employee, or trespasser and has no contractual relationship with the owner. Licensees are allowed on the property for their own purposes rather than for the business purposes of the owner. A neighbor who rings your doorbell to borrow a cup of sugar is an example of a licensee. This class of visitor is only entitled to recover damages for willful or wanton damage caused by defective property conditions.
- Trespassers: A trespasser is a person who enters a property without permission from the owner. Property owners have no duty of care to trespassers except to avoid causing willful or wanton injury. For example, setting spring guns, animal traps, or trip wires that release falling objects would qualify as willful or wanton injury.
What Is the Attractive Nuisance Doctrine?
Different rules may apply to children in premises liability matters. A property owner may face liability if a child is injured because of an attractive nuisance existing on the property that could attract children. Swing sets, slides, fountains, swimming pools, and trampolines are all attractive nuisances. Even when children are trespassing, property owners and possessors can be held liable for failing to exercise reasonable care to protect them from harm when an attractive nuisance is involved.
Do Property Owners Have a Duty to Known Trespassers?
Property owners have no duty of care to unknown trespassers except to refrain from causing willful and wanton injury. Under Georgia law, it is not allowed to shoot intruders unless they present a credible threat of harm to others on the property. When trespassers are known, however, property owners and occupiers have a duty to warn them of any potential dangers on the property.
What Mitigation Strategies Can Property Owners Employ?
Mitigation strategies involving trespasser premises liability aim to balance privacy with safety measures. Ensure pools, trampolines, and other attractive nuisances are adequately fenced or secured to prevent harm to children who may trespass on the property. Implement warnings, signs, and barriers to protect your privacy, discourage trespassers from entering, and warn of any dangerous conditions for protection against liability.
Were You Injured While Trespassing?
Atlanta premises liability lawyers Wayne and Kimberly Grant, the husband-and-wife team of Grant Law Office, have extensive experience handling premises liability matters and a reputation for quality legal representation. We have been selected for the National Trial Lawyers Top 100, rated Superb by Avvo, and listed among Georgia Super Lawyers.
Contact us at (404) 995-3955 to arrange a free case review today.
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