It is incredibly rare for a trespasser to successfully sue a property owner for an injury, but it is not unheard of. Generally speaking, if someone trespasses on your property and they get hurt, you will not be liable. You are free from blame unless:
Chasing a trespasser off your property is not grounds for liability. Neither is using a reasonable degree of force. You cannot, however, use deadly force to persuade an individual to leave unless the threat of bodily harm is dire.
Many landowners in Texas are interested in learning more about trespassing laws because we have a large number of undocumented immigrants passing through the area. In 2014, the Texas Supreme Court reaffirmed that liability rights err on the side of the property owner in trespassing cases. The case in question regarded three immigrants who trespassed on property to avoid border patrol. They were all killed.
The court ruled that landowners are not responsible for a trespasser’s injuries as long as they are self-inflicted. Another key aspect of the case was the illegal nature of the activities. Smuggling drugs or people into the country is a criminal act, and landowners are not responsible for injuries that occur while preventing or terminating a criminal act on their properties.
Posting signs is always a good idea. If you have significant acreage or concerns about trespassing violations, posting a “no trespassing” sign helps individuals understand where boundaries exist and may protect you from liability concerns. In some cases, trespassing is only considered such if there is verbal or written notice on your property.
You may want to post a sign at the entrance of your property and throughout normal travel routes if you do not have fencing. If your property is fenced, that is considered a notice of private property. Alternatively, you can use paint marks on trees to mark property lines. In addition to a “no trespassing” sign, you may want to put a sign up warning potential trespassers of any hazards on your property to protect yourself from being liable for injuries that may occur on your land.
If you notice a trespasser on your property, report the incident to local law enforcement. If someone gets hurt while trespassing on your property, call emergency services and law enforcement immediately. While you have no obligation to keep a trespasser safe, you do have an obligation to act reasonably and non-maliciously toward an individual who trespasses. Do what you can to help the injured party and wait for help to arrive. You may want to consult an attorney about the subsequent risk of a lawsuit, especially if your land was poorly marked.
If you are injured while accidentally trespassing, the property owner may be liable for your injuries. As a property owner or an injured individual, consulting an attorney may be one of the best ways to ensure your rights are protected. At Gordon, Elias & Seely LLP, we understand trespassing laws in the state of Texas and the rights of injured parties in certain circumstances. If you have any questions about pursuing a personal injury claim, reach out to our team in Houston today.