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In the state of California, property owners have a legal responsibility to maintain their premises in a reasonably safe condition. However, what happens when a trespasser is injured on someone else’s property? Can a property owner be held liable for the trespasser’s injuries? 

At Kash Legal, we understand that this is a complex issue and that the answer may vary depending on the specifics of the situation. Generally speaking, the law provides greater protections to trespassers than many people realize. In this article, we will explore the complexities of property owner liability in personal injury cases in California, shedding light on the legal principles, duty of care, defenses, and potential damages involved.

Duty of Care: The Legal Responsibility of Property Owners

The concept of duty of care is crucial in personal injury cases involving property owner liability. In California, property owners owe a duty of care to individuals who are lawfully present on their premises. This includes customers, invited guests, and even trespassers in certain circumstances.

Negligence is a key element in personal injury cases involving property owner liability. It refers to the failure to exercise reasonable care, resulting in harm or injury to another person. In the context of duty of care, property owners can be held liable for negligence if they fail to meet their obligations in maintaining a safe environment for lawful visitors and trespassers under certain circumstances.

Breach of Duty of Care in Premises Liability Cases

To establish negligence, it is necessary to demonstrate that the property owner breached their duty of care. Examples of breach of duty of care may include:

Failure to Maintain the Property

Property owners have an obligation to regularly inspect their premises and address any hazards or dangerous conditions promptly. If they neglect their responsibility and allow unsafe conditions to persist, it can be considered a breach of duty.

Inadequate Security Measures

In cases where the property owner has a duty to provide adequate security, such as in commercial establishments or apartment complexes, a failure to implement proper security measures, such as broken locks or lack of proper lighting, can be considered a breach of duty.

Failure to Warn

Property owners have a duty to warn individuals about known dangers or hazards that may not be readily apparent. If a property owner is aware of a potential risk but fails to provide adequate warning, it can be considered a breach of duty.

Proving Negligence in a Trespasser Premises Liability Claims

To establish negligence, the injured party (plaintiff) must demonstrate the following elements:

Duty of Care

The plaintiff must establish that the property owner owed them a duty of care based on their legal status (invitee, licensee, or, in certain cases, trespasser).

Breach of Duty

The plaintiff must show that the property owner breached their duty of care by failing to meet the expected standards of care.


The plaintiff must establish a causal relationship between the property owner’s breach of duty and their injuries. They must demonstrate that the breach directly resulted in the harm suffered.


The plaintiff must provide evidence of the damages they have suffered as a result of the property owner’s negligence. These damages can be economic (financial losses) or non-economic (pain and suffering, emotional distress).

The Attractive Nuisance Doctrine

California upholds the Attractive Nuisance Doctrine, which states that property owners may be liable for injuries sustained by child trespassers if they have maintained a hazardous condition on their property likely to attract children (e.g., a swimming pool or abandoned machinery). The duty of care is heightened due to the foreseeability of child trespassers being drawn to the danger.

Common Defenses Against Personal Injury Claims

When facing a personal injury claim, property owners in California may employ several defenses to challenge liability. It is crucial to understand these defenses, as they can significantly impact the outcome of a case. Here are some common defenses that property owners may assert:

Lack of Negligence

Property owners may argue that they were not negligent in maintaining their premises or that they took reasonable steps to address any potential hazards. They may present evidence showing that they had regular inspections, conducted necessary repairs, and implemented safety measures. Demonstrating a lack of negligence can weaken the plaintiff’s case and potentially absolve the property owner of liability.

Comparative Negligence

Under the doctrine of comparative negligence, California follows a system that assigns a percentage of fault to each party involved in an accident or injury. If the plaintiff is found partially responsible for their own injuries, their recoverable damages may be reduced proportionately. Property owners may argue that the plaintiff’s own negligence or actions contributed to the accident, thereby reducing their own liability.

Assumption of Risk

In certain situations, property owners may assert that the injured party voluntarily assumed the risk of entering the property or engaging in a particular activity. For example, if warning signs were clearly posted regarding a hazardous condition, the property owner may argue that the plaintiff was aware of the risk and chose to proceed anyway. However, the assumption of risk defense has limitations and may not be applicable in all cases.

Lack of Causation

Property owners may dispute the causal connection between the alleged negligence and the injuries sustained by the plaintiff. They may argue that the injuries were not a direct result of the property owner’s actions or omissions. 

To succeed with this defense, the property owner must present evidence demonstrating that the injuries were caused by factors unrelated to their premises or conduct.

Statute of Limitations

Every personal injury claim has a statute of limitations, which is the time limit within which a lawsuit must be filed. Property owners may assert the defense of the expiration of the statute of limitations, arguing that the injured party failed to initiate legal proceedings within the specified timeframe. If successful, this defense can result in the dismissal of the claim.


Certain property owners, such as governmental entities, may enjoy immunity from personal injury claims under specific circumstances. Governmental immunity statutes often require adherence to strict procedural requirements, including providing notice of the claim within a specified timeframe. Property owners who qualify for immunity may use it as a defense against personal injury claims.

It is important to note that each case is unique, and the applicability of these defenses will depend on the specific facts and circumstances involved. Consulting with an experienced personal injury lawyer from Kash Legal will provide invaluable guidance in assessing the viability of these defenses and developing a strong legal strategy.

Potential Damages in Premises Liability Cases

Economic damages may include medical expenses, lost wages, property damage, and other quantifiable financial losses resulting from the injury. It is important to document and provide evidence for these damages during the legal proceedings to ensure proper compensation.

In addition to economic damages, personal injury cases involving property owner liability in California may also consider non-economic damages. These damages are more subjective and can include pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, and loss of consortium for a spouse or family member. 

Evaluating and calculating non-economic damages can be complex, as they do not have a specific monetary value assigned to them. An experienced lawyer can help assess the impact of the injury and determine appropriate compensation for these intangible losses.

Seeking Legal Assistance — Protecting Your Rights With the Help of Kash Legal

Understanding property owner liability in personal injury cases involving trespassers is essential for both property owners and individuals who have been injured. Navigating the legal landscape surrounding property owner liability can be complex, and seeking the assistance of a knowledgeable lawyer is crucial. 

By contacting a lawyer from Kash Legal, you can ensure that your rights are protected, your case is handled with expertise, and you have the best chance of obtaining the compensation you deserve. Reach out to us at (888) 527-4128 or complete our contact form today to schedule a consultation and take the first step toward asserting your legal rights and seeking justice.

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