It's bad enough when someone comes to your nest and ends up with some kind of injury. It can get even worse if that person starts talking about lawsuits. Homeowners do have some responsibility in this area, but the extent of that responsibility depends on the circumstances of the injury. Most states condition liability on the status of the injured party. The liability comes down to if the injured person is a trespasser, a licensee or an invitee.
Undiscovered and Discovered Trespassers
You owe nothing to a person who trespasses on your property without your knowledge. Even if that "undiscovered trespasser" is badly injured by something in your yard or home, courts won't hold you responsible since you did not know he was there. On the other hand, let's say you know trespassers have access to your property. In that case, you have a duty to warn them about any conditions on your property that could pose a risk of death or serious bodily injury. You're also supposed to fix those risks. Failure to do either could leave you in liable in a court's opinion.
A licensee enters your property for his own benefit and with your permission. Friends and relatives visiting for social purposes fall under the licensee tag. You're expected to warn licensees of any dangerous conditions in the home. This covers anything you're aware of; legally, you're not expected to do inspections every time you have guests over. You are expected to use reasonable care when you conduct activities on your property. For example, if you invite friends over for a game of volleyball, you should use reasonable care to remove any objects from the area your guests can trip over.
An invitee is in your home at your invitation for business purposes. You need to do the same things you do for a licensee, plus do a reasonable inspection to find any dangerous conditions. If an invitee exceeds the scope of your invitation, she can lose her invitee status. Take this example: you host a Mary Kay party in your living room. One of the participants leaves to go to the bathroom, but makes her way down to the basement where she injures herself on rotten wood steps. This invitee exceeded the invitation since you did not give her permission to enter the basement. She technically became an undiscovered trespasser in the basement. Therefore, a court would not likely hold you responsible for her injury.
These rules hold true in a majority of states, but not all of them. Some do not make such clear distinctions between licensees and invitees. In those states, you must use reasonable care for anyone on your property. Check your state’s laws for specific details. Regardless of what you find, you should have a homeowners insurance policy that will cover injuries to nonresidents.
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