If a trespasser is injured while trespassing on your property, can you be held liable for that trespasser’s injury? It’s a complicated question. If you are either the trespasser or the property owner in this situation, you’ll need to be advised by a Chicago premises liability attorney.
In Illinois, what legal steps can you take to deter trespassers from entering your property? What can happen if a trespasser is injured on your property? When should you contact a Chicago premises liability lawyer for legal advice and representation?
If you continue reading this brief discussion of trespassing, premises liability, your rights, and the law in Illinois, you’ll find some of the answers you may need, but if a trespasser is injured on your property, or if you are injured while trespassing, you’ll need a lawyer’s personalized advice.
What is Premises Liability?
Premises liability is a property owner’s liability for injuries caused by that property owner’s negligence. Illinois property owners are required by law to keep properties reasonably safe for visitors and free from hazards.
In a premises liability case, these questions must be answered:
- Did the owner create the safety hazard? If not, did they know about it? Can you prove they knew about it?
- Did the owner sincerely try to meet the legal obligation to keep the property safe?
- Was the injured person careless? Would an average person have seen and avoided the hazard?
- Was the injured person lawfully on the property, or was that person trespassing?
In most cases, if you are injured on private property because the owner was negligent, you may bring a premises liability claim to recover compensation for your injury-related medical bills, lost wages, and related losses and damages. To prevail with your claim, you and your attorney will have to prove that the property owner was negligent.
If there was no negligence on the property owner’s part, and you were injured stumbling into a pool or a barbecue pit because you were drunk or distracted by your smartphone, for example, you do not have a premises liability claim.
What is the Trespassing Law in Illinois?
Trespassing is a crime in Illinois. It’s a misdemeanor punishable upon conviction with up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $500. Either of these two situations constitute trespassing under Illinois law:
- Entering a property after receiving a warning not to enter the property.
- Refusing to leave a property after being asked to leave the property.
With visitors – guests, customers, employees, and contractors, for example – property owners have a “duty of care” to fix hazards or to warn visitors about any hazards. However, property owners do not owe a duty of care to trespassers, with several limited exceptions.
The main exception is when children frequently trespass on a property, as a shortcut to school or for some other reason, and the property owner is aware of the situation and does nothing to stop it. In this situation, the property owner owes the “trespassers” a reasonable duty of care.
How Does the Law Address Injuries to Trespassers?
In Illinois, in most cases, simple negligence will not make a property owner liable for a trespasser’s injuries. However, an owner may be liable if a trespasser’s injury is the result of “willful and wanton conduct” that indicates a reckless disregard for others, including trespassers.
Illinois law authorizes owners to protect their properties using reasonable means, but they may not set traps or devices that endanger human life or cause severe bodily harm. It’s better to rely on locks, alarm systems, and security companies. If a property is protected by a guard dog, at least one sign warning about the dog must be visibly and clearly posted.
If you have been injured on someone else’s property because the owner of that property was negligent – and even if you were trespassing – schedule a consultation right away to discuss your case with a Chicago premises liability attorney.
What Are Your Rights as an Injured Victim of Negligence?
If you are a visitor to a property and you’re injured because a property owner was negligent, and if you and your lawyer can prove that you were injured because of that negligence, you will be compensated for your injury-related medical bills, lost wages, and related losses and damages.
However, if you were trespassing on private property, and you were injured, your case will be more complicated, and it will be more difficult for your claim to prevail. You’ll have to show that the property owner acted with reckless disregard for your life and safety.
How Are Premises Liability Claims Resolved?
When you seek legal assistance from a Chicago premises liability lawyer, that lawyer will investigate exactly how you were injured and will compile evidence and identify witnesses on your behalf.
In most premises liability cases, the attorneys for both sides negotiate an out-of-court settlement that is acceptable to everyone involved. However, if there’s a dispute over liability for the incident, and especially if trespassing is involved, the case may go to trial.
At a premises liability trial, an injury victim’s attorney must prove that the property owner was negligent because he or she failed to maintain the property in a safe condition, and the victim’s attorney must also prove that the owner’s negligence was a direct cause of the victim’s injury.
If the victim was injured while trespassing, his or her attorney must prove that the property owner acted willfully, wantonly, and with reckless disregard for the injury victim’s life and safety.
What is the Deadline for Taking Legal Action?
You must take action within two years of a premises liability injury, or in most cases, you won’t be allowed to bring a claim under the Illinois statute of limitations. Don’t wait two years to speak with a lawyer. Make the call as soon as a medical provider has examined and/or treated you.
Over time, evidence in a case deteriorates or sometimes disappears, and the memories of the witnesses fade. Your attorney should see any evidence while it’s still fresh and question any witnesses while their recollections are still recent.
If you’ve missed the two-year deadline, go ahead and speak to an attorney, because your case might possibly qualify under one of the limited exceptions to the statute of limitations. But if you’ve been injured recently, now is the time to schedule a consultation with an attorney.
What Else Should You Know About Premises Liability?
If you’ve been seriously injured because a property owner was negligent, the challenges you face may seem overwhelming, but a premises liability lawyer will protect your legal rights, guide you through the premises liability process, and fight aggressively and effectively for the compensation you need and the justice you deserve.
Premises liability attorneys represent their clients on a contingent fee basis, so your first legal consultation is provided with no cost or obligation, and you pay no lawyer’s fee until and unless your lawyer recovers compensation on your behalf.
If you were injured on private property in or near the Chicago area, even if you were trespassing at the time, it costs nothing to learn more about your rights. If you take legal action, and if your claim prevails, you will recover compensation, and the law will be on your side.