Injuries frequently occur on private property, leaving the homeowner liable in many cases. Children are particularly prone to accidents, as they’re less experienced and understanding of certain risks. As a result, children often inadvertently trespass onto others’ property, where they could sustain certain injuries depending on certain circumstances.
The Attractive Nuisance Doctrine
Prior to 1955, the attractive nuisance doctrine served to provide children in Illinois with certain protections when trespassing, when property owners were otherwise not responsible for trespassers’ wellbeing unless they intentionally caused harm to them. Under this doctrine, landowners could be found liable if a child is injured as a result of hazardous conditions that attracted children to the property, including abandoned vehicles, swimming pools, and construction sites.
Determining Liability Based on Negligence
Today, the attractive nuisance doctrine is no longer in effect in Illinois, as the state now determines liability based on instances of negligence. If an injured child believes the property owner is responsible for the injuries sustained when trespassing, certain factors need to prove this, including:
- The owner’s awareness of the child’s presence on the property
- The presence of a dangerous condition or structure with a defect
- The injury occurred as a result of conditions or structures that the child couldn’t know were dangerous
- The removal of the danger was inexpensive
However, if the child is on the property without trespassing, property owners are required to keep children safe from potentially dangerous conditions, whether manmade or naturally occurring.
Generally, if a property owner didn’t know the child was on the property or anticipate the child’s presence, the duty of the owner is to simply avoid purposely injuring the child or causing the injury out of recklessness. When obvious dangerous conditions are in place that the owner has no duty to mitigate and the dangers of which the child could have appreciated and avoided, he or she won’t likely be found negligent. These could include an above-ground pool, climbable trees, and thin ice over frozen bodies of water.
The Duty of the Property Owner
Liability can vary from state to state, but the homeowner or property owner will typically be found liable if his or her negligence resulted in any type of personal injury. The best way to prevent injuries at the home is to take sufficient safety precautions and work to ensure all guests are safe.