In the nation’s capital, if you’re injured on someone else’s property because the owner was careless, can you be compensated? It depends. If your injury was caused by a negligent property owner, you’ll need to discuss the details with a Washington, D.C. premises liability attorney.
Anyone could sustain an injury by slipping and falling on a wet floor or by tripping and falling on a cracked sidewalk. If you are legally on someone else’s property, and you are injured by the owner’s negligence, you may be compensated for your medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering and more.
But what if you were trespassing on someone else’s property when you were injured? Can you still be compensated for your injuries? If you own property, can a trespasser sue you for injuries? Keep reading this brief discussion of trespassing and your rights for the answers you may need.
When May a Trespasser Sue a Property Owner?
Most people presume that a trespasser has no right to recover compensation if he or she is injured while trespassing. However, that’s not always true. There are circumstances where someone who is injured while trespassing has a right to sue for and recover compensation.
For instance, if a property owner’s wanton, willful behavior caused your injury while you were trespassing, and nothing indicated that you represented a threat, you probably have a valid injury claim, and you should contact a Washington, D.C. premises liability lawyer at once.
If a property owner knew that you were trespassing and failed to warn you about any risks or dangers on the property – such as an aggressive guard dog – you may also have a valid injury claim.
What Are a Property Owner’s Rights?
Property owners may not set up “booby traps” to injure or harm trespassers intentionally. If you do, you may be liable for any injury caused by your booby traps. This law protects the innocent – children and pets – but it also protects you from lawsuits that may be brought by trespassers.
However, if a trespasser is injured simply because you were negligent – let’s say that you forgot about a shovel or a rake on your lawn and a trespasser was injured tripping over it – the trespasser probably has no grounds for a claim because you did not intend to harm anyone.
On the other hand, if someone is on your property legally as a visitor or guest, and that person is injured tripping on a rake or a shovel that you forgot to put away, as a legal visitor or guest, that person can probably take legal action against you to recover compensation for his or her injury.
What Are an Injury Victim’s Rights?
If you are injured by someone else’s negligence when you are a guest, visitor, or tenant who is legally on that other person’s property, you have the right to seek and recover compensation for:
- your current and projected future medical expenses
- your lost wages and projected future lost wages
- your personal pain, suffering, and emotional distress
- other related losses and damages
What Questions Are Considered in Premises Liability Cases?
Most claims for premises liability emphasize what a property owner “should” have known and whether that owner acted “reasonably” to repair a potential hazard. Thus, the central questions in a premises liability case are usually:
- When was the hazardous condition first known or apparent?
- How long did the hazardous condition exist before the injury occurred?
- Did the owner have a reasonable amount of time to repair the hazardous condition?
When a property owner learns about cracks in a sidewalk or hazardous plumbing leaks, for example, that owner may need several days to locate qualified repair people and schedule the repairs.
Until the hazardous condition is fixed, one or more warning signs should be posted and a verbal warning should also be given to anyone who enters or intends to visit the property.
What Steps Should Injury Victims Take?
The first priority after anyone is injured is summoning or seeking medical help. If you are injured, after you’ve been examined and treated by a medical professional, immediately schedule a consultation with a Washington, D.C. premises liability attorney.
That attorney will investigate the details of the accident that injured you, review the evidence, speak with any witnesses, identify the liable party or parties, and negotiate on your behalf for the compensation that you need, deserve, and are entitled to by law.
Most premises liability claims are settled quickly and outside of the courtroom, but if liability for your injury is disputed, or if no reasonable settlement offer is forthcoming in the private negotiations, your attorney will take your premises liability claim to trial.
What Happens at a Premises Liability Trial?
If your injury case goes to trial, your Washington, D.C. premises liability lawyer will explain to the jurors how you were injured and how extensively you were injured. Your lawyer will then ask the jurors to order the payment of your compensation.
What will you have to prove to prevail at a premises liability trial? The injured victim of a property owner’s negligence must prove that one of these circumstances existed when the injury occurred:
- The property owner (or manager) should have been aware of the potential hazard. A “reasonable” owner or property manager in a similar situation would have known about and cleaned up or repaired the potential hazard.
- The property owner (or manager) knew about the hazard but failed to act.
If your attorney can prove either of these circumstances existed when you were injured, the property owner (or manager) will be deemed liable and held accountable for your injury.
What is the Trespassing Law in the District of Columbia?
In the District of Columbia, trespassing is usually charged as a misdemeanor and is usually punishable upon conviction with a jail sentence and a fine. As mentioned previously, most trespassers will have no legal recourse if they are injured while trespassing.
However, if a property owner has set a booby trap or otherwise inflicted intentional harm on a trespasser who poses no threat, that trespasser should contact a premises liability lawyer at once to discuss his or her legal rights – including the right to seek and recover compensation.
What Else Should You Know?
You have three years from the date of your injury to bring a premises liability claim in the District of Columbia. However, you cannot wait three years – or even three weeks – to speak with a premises liability lawyer.
Your lawyer needs to review any evidence while it’s fresh and speak to any witnesses before their memories fade, so contact a lawyer as soon as you’ve been examined and treated by a medical provider.
Injury lawyers work on a contingent fee basis, so you’ll owe no lawyer’s fee until and unless you are compensated. The process begins with a free, no-obligation case evaluation. If you’re injured – now or in the future – by someone else’s negligence, call a premises liability lawyer at once.