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Property owners may be liable for trespassing children

A child trespasses on a neighbor's property while the neighbor is out of town. The child is seriously injured. Afterward, the parents confront the property owner, saying they intend to sue over the injury. They have medical bills to pay.

Is this possible? Is the owner protected by the fact that the child should never have been on the property in the first place, or is he or she still liable?

The answer can be complex, and every case is different, but there are certainly situations where the owner could be liable, even though the child was trespassing. One of the most common is when there is an attractive nuisance on the property.

An attractive nuisance is something that is clearly and inherently dangerous, but which also may attract young kids. One oft-cited example is a swimming pool.

For instance, perhaps the neighbor child was just three years old. He or she doesn't understand property lines and trespassing laws. The pool, meanwhile, doesn't have a fence around it or a gate. It's not covered. The child can easily just walk onto the property and fall into the pool.

Property owners need to be aware of dangers and take rational steps to protect young kids who may be too young to protect themselves. If an older child climbs a fence, the owner may not be liable, having done all that was possible. If the owner does nothing and leaves an exposed risk, though, a lawsuit may result from any accident.

It's important for parents to know their legal options when children are injured, as medical bills can be very high and some injuries can change the course of a child's life.

Source: FindLaw, "Dangers to Children: What is an Attractive Nuisance?" Oct. 19, 2017

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