Under Illinois law, property owners or occupiers generally do not owe a duty of care to trespassing adults, so it is uncommon for an injured trespasser to be able to seek compensation for his or her injuries.
In this Article
What Is a Trespasser?
A trespasser is an individual who enters a property without the permission of the owner. Under Illinois law, trespassing on a property is a criminal act when a person knowingly and without lawful authority enters or remains in a building. It is also considered to be trespassing if they enter or remain on the land of someone else after receiving notice that entry is forbidden. Presenting false documents or making false identity claims to gain access to property is also considered trespassing.
Illinois follows an attractive nuisance doctrine, which means that property owners or occupiers owe a duty of care to certain child trespassers. Generally, if a child trespasser is injured on the property due to an artificial condition on the land, and the condition was dangerous enough to attract children, then the owner may be liable for any injuries sustained by the child.
Attractive Nuisance Example
For example, if a child trespasses on someone else’s property to play in a pool without a secure gate and suffers serious bodily harm, it is likely that the swimming pool owner will be held liable under the attractive nuisance doctrine.
What Is a Duty of Care?
A duty of care is the legal obligation that someone has to act in a certain way to avoid causing harm to others. In premises liability cases, this rule applies and property owners or occupiers can be held responsible for injuries sustained on their properties if they failed to exercise this duty of care.
Invitees vs. Licensees
Illinois law imposes a duty on property owners and occupiers that varies depending on the status of the person that enters the premises. The law does differentiate between people who are invited, people who are licensed to enter, and people who are trespassing.
Injured Invitees and Licensees
If you have been injured on someone else’s property, you may be able to seek compensation if you were an invitee or licensee. An invitee is a person who has been invited onto the property for business purposes, such as a customer at a store. A licensee is someone who has been granted permission by the owner to enter their property, such as a social guest in one’s home.
Duty of Care to Invitees or Licensees
If you are an invitee or licensee, and therefore permitted on the property, the property owner has a duty of care to ensure that their premises are reasonably safe for you. This means they need to take reasonable care to cure any dangers or defects on the property known to them, or warn entrants about potential hazards or unsafe conditions of which the owner or occupier has knowledge, and that the entrants could not reasonably be expected to discover for themselves that could foreseeably cause injury.
If they have failed in this duty and you have been injured as a result, then you may be able to seek compensation for your injuries. This can include compensation for medical costs, lost wages, disability and disfigurement, pain and suffering, loss of life, and more.
Injured Adult Trespassers
When it comes to trespassers, owners or occupiers generally do not owe a duty of care to trespassing adults except to refrain from willfully and wantonly injuring him or her. Injuring someone willfully or wantonly goes beyond negligence and includes a disregard of the risk known to the owner or occupier or an unreasonable risk so obvious that owner or occupier must have been aware of it, and the risk is so great that it is reasonable that harm would result from it.
Actual and Constructive Notice of the Trespasser
Additionally, to be held labile for willful and wanton conduct, a property owner or occupier must have actual or constructive notice that a trespasser is on the premises. Actual notice is when the owner or occupier has concrete knowledge that the trespasser is on the property, either by seeing the trespasser or being told there’s a trespasser. Constructive notice refers to when a property owner or occupier should have known a trespasser was there.
Exceptions When a Property Owner May Have a Duty Owed to Trespassers
There are a few exceptions to the general rule limiting the landowner’s duty to trespassers.
A property owner or occupier must use ordinary care to avoid injury to discovered trespassers who are in a place of danger on the premises. If they do not use ordinary care, they may be liable.
A property owner or occupier owes a duty of ordinary care to those who are frequent trespassers in a limited area where the property owner or occupier knows, or have reason to know, of the trespasser’s presence. An owner may be liable for bodily harm to the known trespasser if they fail to follow this legal duty owed trespassers.
A property owner or occupier who maintains a dangerous activity on the premises has a duty to warn trespassers when the property owner or occupier is aware of the possibility that others will come into dangerous proximity of the condition. If a trespassing person was not warned, the owner or occupier may be held liable for the trespasser’s injuries.
Examples of a Legal Duty Owed to Trespassers
For example, if a building owner is aware that a stairwell to an upper floor of their empty building has partially fallen down and could cause harm to anyone who enters, then they have an obligation to take reasonable steps to protect unsuspecting trespassers from injury due to these dangerous conditions.
The personal injury lawyers at The Kryder Law Group, LLC Accident and Injury Lawyers can help you determine if you have a premises liability case if you’ve been injured on someone else’s property. We are here to answer your questions and help maximize your compensation for injuries caused by someone else’s negligence. Contact us today for a free consultation.