Every state has its own rules regarding who can be held liable for an accident on someone else’s property. In Rhode Island, different rules apply to lawful entrants (such as customers or social guests) and trespassers (such as burglars). Property owners have a duty to keep their premises reasonably safe for lawful entrants—for example, they should keep their homes and businesses free of hazards that could cause a slip or fall. However, the property owner does not owe this same duty of care to trespassers, except in very limited circumstances.
When Trespassers May Be Owed Compensation Under RI Premises Liability Laws
Generally speaking, a landowner owes no duty of care to people who are on their property without permission. Since they do not owe a duty of care, they cannot be found in breach of that care and, therefore, cannot be liable for a trespasser’s injuries while doing so. The only exceptions to this rule include:
- Children. Children do not have the same restrictions on entering a person’s property, since they are often too young to make rational decisions. If a child comes into your yard because you have a swimming pool or possibly a swing set, you have an extra duty of care such as installing a locked gate and motion-sensing lights.
- Invited guests. Rhode Island law has established that a landowner does owe a duty of care to invited guests. Invited guests do not only include friends or neighbors but also mail carriers, meter readers, and anyone else who may need to enter the property. Landowners can be held liable for injuries if they did not keep the premises in a reasonably safe condition. A person cannot claim that an invited guest was a trespasser in order to escape liability.
- Invited recreational users. Some private landowners allow the public to walk through or on parts of their property such as those who allow beachgoers to access a lakefront by taking a shortcut across their lawn. If any portion of your land has been made available for public use, you will have limited liability to those users. This does not mean you have to ensure that the land is safe, but you are required to repair any potentially dangerous conditions that are made known.
Additionally, a property owner can be held liable for any injuries caused if he acts recklessly towards the trespasser.
If you were hurt on someone else’s property, our attorneys can carefully examine the facts of your case to discover who was at fault. Contact our offices today to schedule your no-obligation consultation with our legal advisors.