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Trespassing and the duty of property owners


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Whether it is for a moment or an extended period of time, residents in Colorado and elsewhere will often enter the property of others. Visiting a friend, having a meal in a restaurant, grocery shopping, working in an office building, a shopping trip or even mailing a letter at the post office means stepping foot on another’s property. While it may seem like a very routine activity, it could be a major factor when an individual suffers harm. If a property owner fails to keep their property safe and free from hazards, an unsuspecting visitor on the property could suffer injuries in an incident.

Property owners are held to a certain standard when it comes to maintaining a safe environment. A property owner has the responsibility to ensure that their property is relatively safe so those coming onto the property, invited or not, do not suffer injuries. This could be as simple as fixing a broken step on their porch or salting a slippery walkway.

What about trespassers? Does a property owner have the duty to prevent harm to those trespassing on their property? The simplest answer is that they might. If a property owner has knowledge that trespassers are likely to enter their property, they may have the duty to provide a reasonable warning in order to prevent injuries. But this warning requirement only applies to artificial conditions that the property owner has created or maintained that could likely lead to injury or death.

The standard is slightly different for children trespassers. A property owner is required to give a warning if it is likely that a child would go on their premises and there is a dangerous condition on the property that could lead to injury or death. This is a special duty to children and is known as the attractive nuisance doctrine.

Because property owners owe a duty to those that enter their property, it is important to understand what rights one has if the conditions of the property were the cause of harms suffered in an accident on the property. A premises liability action not only seeks to hold a negligent property owner liable for this incident, but it also assesses the damages suffered by the victim. In the end, this assists a victim in the recovery of compensation to address these losses.

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