You may have heard stories about burglars who sued their victims after injuring themselves on a victim’s property. While cases such as these are rare, it brings up an interesting question in wrongful death cases: what if the person who was killed was not legally allowed on the property?
Entry to the Property and Your Wrongful Death Case
Wrongful death cases are based on negligence, meaning that someone who was legally responsible for performing a reasonable level of care did not perform the duty adequately. If someone is killed on another person’s property, the property owner could be liable for not making the property safe to visitors. However, some courts argue that property owners do not have to take the same level of care for all users of the property, particularly those who do not have permission to be on the grounds.
Your wrongful death case may depend on whether or not the deceased was a:
- Invitee. A person who has an express or implied invitation to enter the premises for mutual benefit of the parties is considered an invitee. One example is a customer in a shopping mall, another is a mail carrier who must enter the property in order to perform his duties. Homeowners or property owners have a duty to discover and correct any potential dangers before invitees are harmed.
- Licensee. A licensee also has permission to be on a property owner’s premises, and can include a family member, employee, or other guest. A property owner has a duty to warn a licensee of any dangers that are not readily apparent, such as a downed wire or faulty smoke alarm. For example, a property owner could be liable for the death of a house sitter who was killed due to gas leak in the home.
- Trespasser. Unlike other visitors, trespassers do not have any reason or lawful purpose to enter a property and have not been invited to do so. In many cases, it is more difficult to recover for wrongful death if the deceased was trespassing. The only exceptions to this rule are children, who may not be blamed for trespassing on someone else’s property (such as when a child drowns in a neighbor’s pool).
In addition to the nature of the deceased’s use of the property, a wrongful death case may also depend on whether the property owner should have known about the dangerous condition, and if one or more parties can be blamed (such as owners of an apartment complex, landlords, and maintenance crews).
Our wrongful death attorneys can help you determine who is to blame for your loved one’s death, and you will pay no attorney fees unless we win your case. Call Wayne Wright LLP at 800-237-3334 to have us start investigating the details of your case today.