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Insurance company may challenge trespasser claims of injury

The owner of New York property, whether residential or commercial, carries an important duty to ensure visitors are not harmed. A homeowner may take certain steps to clear tripping hazards from hallways or repair the broken latch on the fence surrounding a pool. A business owner may have a checklist or protocol for cleaning and surveying the premises for anything that might endanger a customer or vendor. When accidents happen, property owners rely on their insurance company to assist them in paying for the damage. However, who is liable when an intruder is injured on someone's property?

A person who comes onto private property without permission or invitation is a trespasser. While trespassing is unlawful, the intruder may have certain rights if he or she is injured, whether the trespasser is breaking in or simply passing through. In most cases, the property owner is not liable for accidental injuries a trespasser suffers while unlawfully on the property. It is a different story if the owner intentionally or negligently causes harm.

An accidental injury, such as tripping on a toy a child leaves in the yard, does not usually result in liability issues for the property owner. If the owner intentionally harms the trespasser by creating a hazard that is meant to cause injury or death, liability is more likely. Additionally, if such a danger exists on the property, even unintentionally, the owner has a responsibility to issue a reasonable warning, especially if the owner is aware that trespassers frequently enter the property.

A New York resident or business owner and his or her insurance company faced with claims of injury from someone who was unlawfully on private property will certainly want to fight the accusations. These claims may be especially challenging if children are injured on someone's property. Having a strong defense strategy will be essential when dealing with such complex issues.

Source: FindLaw, "Homeowner Liability for Trespasser Injuries", April 6, 2018

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