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Trespassing: How This Can Affect Your Premises Liability Claim

In Georgia, when a person gets injured on someone else’s property, the injured party may be able to file a premises liability claim for their injuries against the property owner. However, there are some exceptions to the rule, trespassing being one of them.

In order to be able to file a claim for damages under Georgia premises liability law, you must have a legal right to be on the property. In other words, you must either be invited, or expected, on the property by the landowner when your injuries occur. Examples of these persons with this status can include shoppers at a mall, patrons at a restaurant, customers at a grocery store or department store, or guests at a hotel. People who are attending concerts or sporting events are also covered under the law because they have a legal right to be on the property. The legal right of the person to be on the party at the time of the injuries is often used by insurance companies and their lawyers to undermine premise liability claims. It is important, therefore, to determine your legal right to be on the property and identify if you were an “invitee,” a license,” or a “trespasser” in order to build a solid claim that protects your rights.

Sometimes, however, injuries occur when a person has no legal right to be on the property. This person is called a “trespasser,” and the laws governing trespassing and premises liability claims are complex. There is no black and white rule which states that all trespassers, without exception, are ineligible to file claims for damages if they are injured on a property.

A prime example of when a trespasser may still be able to file a claim for damages is when the injured party is a child.   Children’s rights are protected under the Attractive Nuisance Doctrine.  This doctrine essentially states that a landowner may be liable for harm caused to a trespassing child on their property as a result of a dangerous artificial condition on the property if the landowner failed to take certain steps to protect children.  A very common example that is seen all throughout Georgia is a neighbor’s swimming pool.  If a child wanders onto the neighbor’s property and suffers injuries or death because of the pool, the landowner could be liable if he failed to erect a fence or some other type of protective enclosure around the pool.

Mailmen are also not considered trespassers, because even though they are not invited on the property, they do have a right to be there. If a mailman is injured on a property, say as the result of a dog bite, the property owner may be liable for damages. Mailmen, in fact, are some of the most common victims of dog bites in the country, and the United States Postal Service estimates that as many as 6,000 mailmen are injured by dogs every year when they visit properties to deliver mail.

Property owners are expected to exercise reasonable care to ensure that no person is injured on his property. Any dangerous condition that could seriously harm any visitor to the property should be clearly mentioned. And even in the case of trespassers, a property still has a duty to avoid wilfully injuring them.

If you have suffered injuries on someone else’s property, talk to an Atlanta premises liability lawyer at the Katz Law Firm, and determine whether you are eligible to file a claim for damages.