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Are you liable for a trespasser’s injuries?

Someone comes onto your property without your permission and suffers an injury. Are you at fault?

According to the New Jersey Courts, in most situations, you are not liable for the injuries to someone trespassing on your property. However, it is not straightforward as there are exceptions and rules.

Assumption of risk

When someone breaks the law and comes onto your property illegally, you have no duty of care to provide for that person’s safety. They assume a risk when taking these actions.

The exception to this is for minors. Children may wander onto the property because of something that intrigues or entices them, such as a trampoline or swimming pool.

In such situations, the minor is unable to assume the risk. You have the responsibility to protect the child by not making access to your property or the attractive element easy. You can put up a fence, for example, to keep unwanted visitors away from your swimming pool.

So, if the trespasser is a child, you very well could be liable for any injuries he or she suffers.

Willful injury

Another exception involves intentionally hurting the trespasser. You do not have the right to purposefully harm someone trespassing on your property. There is an exception to this exception for self-defense, but that goes beyond the scope of this information.

In general, just understand that you cannot harm someone simply because he or she comes onto your property without permission.

The bottom line is that you have some duty of care to anyone coming on your property. You should protect children by ensuring your land does not contain anything that could entice them to come on it and if it does, erect property barriers. You also should not intentionally harm someone trespassing.