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Landowner Responsibilities for Trespasser Injuries in Missouri

Landowner Responsibilities for Trespasser Injuries in Missouri
Landowner Responsibilities for Trespasser Injuries in Missouri

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In Missouri, generally speaking, a landowner has no duty to protect a trespasser who enters upon his property. After all, why would you be responsible for injuries suffered by someone is unlawfully upon your property?  However, there are some important exceptions where you, as a landowner, could be sued for injuries suffered by a trespasser.

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What is considered a Trespasser in Missouri?

A trespasser is anyone who enters upon your property without permission or invitation.  The person doesn’t have to have malicious intent to be a trespasser, and “trespasser” can include solicitors and sales people.

Can You Sue for an Injury if You Were Trespassing?

In Missouri, suing for an injury sustained while trespassing on someone else’s property is generally challenging but not impossible. Whether a trespasser can recover compensation depends on several key factors related to the property owner’s duty of care.

First, it must be proven that a dangerous condition existed on the property. The property owner must have had possession and control of the premises and reasonable knowledge of the hazardous condition. If the owner did not know about the dangerous condition, or if a reasonable person could not have foreseen it, the owner might not be liable.

Additionally, the property owner must have failed to remedy the dangerous condition or failed to warn individuals about it. Finally, the dangerous condition must have directly caused the trespasser’s injury, resulting in damages.

Ultimately, the circumstances of each case are unique, and navigating these legal complexities typically requires the assistance of a professional attorney.

Willful or Wanton Acts

In Missouri, the law provides that a property owner/occupant may be responsible to a trespasser for injuries caused by intentional, willful, or wanton acts. Basically, this means that you cannot intentionally or willfully harm a trespasser. For instance, let’s say Joe Smith, without your permission, cuts through your backyard every day as a shortcut. You decide to lay in wait in the bushes with a baseball bat. When Joe Smith cuts through the yard, you jump out and attack him with the baseball bat. This is an intentional, willful and wanton act, and you may be held liable for injuries.

However, Missouri does allow a homeowner to use “justifiable force” to stop a criminal trespasser. Thus, if a burglar breaks into your house and you come at him with the same baseball bat, your actions could be considered justified. Keep in mind, though, that there is always a question as to what is justifiable under the circumstances.

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Duty Regarding Dangerous Artificial Conditions

If you have a dangerous artificial condition on your property, you may be liable to an injured trespasser if:

  • You are aware of the trespasser
  • The trespasser is not likely to know of the dangerous condition
  • The condition can cause serious harm or death
  • You do not warn of the danger

For instance, suppose you decide to do some bear hunting on your property.  You set up hidden bear traps in your backyard. You know Joe Smith the trespasser, cuts across your backyard every day. Joe will not see the hidden bear traps, and they can clearly cause extreme injury or death. You don’t post any signs to alert Joe of the bear traps. If Joe is injured by the bear traps, you could be held liable.

Children Trespassers in Missouri

When it comes to children trespassers, Missouri adheres to the “attractive nuisance” doctrine. Basically, a property owner/possessor can be held liable to a child trespasser injured on private property if the owner knew or should have known that children were likely to trespass on property because of an attractive, yet dangerous condition (i.e. trampolines, broken appliances, large dirt mounds). In such cases, a posted warning is not typically sufficient to prevent liability since children are not likely to read or heed such warning. Instead, an owner should take proactive measures to protect potential child trespassers.

What Should You Do After Being Injured on Another Party’s Property in Missouri?

After being injured on another party’s property in Missouri, it’s crucial to take specific steps to protect your health and legal rights. Here’s what you should do:

First, notify the property owner or the party responsible for the property about your injury immediately. This creates an official record of the incident. Next, seek medical attention right away. Call 911 for emergency services, go to the emergency room, or visit your doctor. Prompt medical care is essential not only for your health, but also to establish a connection between the accident and your injuries.

If you can, document the accident scene by taking photos and videos. Capture the conditions that contributed to your injury, as this evidence can be vital for your case.

Lastly, make sure to contact our personal injury attorneys, proudly serving all the Greater Kansas City area, as soon as possible. Premises liability claims are complex, and the property owner’s insurance company will have resources to defend against your claim. An experienced law firm like Noland Law Firm has the skills and resources to effectively pursue your claim and help you secure the compensation you deserve.

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