Unless you're a hermit and you refuse to even let someone put a toe on your grass, you're going to have guests over at your home eventually. When you invite people to your home, you are responsible for their safety. If a person suffers injury on your property, and you were somehow responsible for the accident that caused it, you could be sued for damages.
Wait, but it's private property.
That's true. Businesses get sued all the time for slip-and-fall accidents, and most businesses are private property too. Your property is different from a business because you have a say as to who is allowed to come to your home. A person could only sue if:
- They were invited. A Christmas party at your house means you are anticipating guests. They are therefore coming to your home with an expectation that you are taking reasonable responsibility for their safety.
- They weren't warned. If you have a dog that bites, and fail to post a "Beware Of Dog" sign, when guest suffers an injury due to dog bites, you would be liable. This would also be true of slippery walkways or low-hanging beams that could cause head injury.
- You didn't make provisions for safety. Similarly, if you know that your dog has a history of violence, if you didn't make the provision to have the dog locked up, you would liable for any attacks that dog makes on guests. However, if you can prove the dog was locked up, and the injury was caused because the guest was baiting the animal, you would be free from responsibility.
- You should have known about the problem as a homeowner. If you spent all day inside baking pies for your party, and it was snowing all day, you may not have personally known your walks were slippery. However, as a homeowner, the courts may decide this is something you ought to have known or something that ought to have occurred to you to check. Even though you may have been surprised someone slipped and broke an ankle, it's still on you.
So, trespassers can't sue?
No, they can't. If a middle-aged man decides to cut across your lawn and gets bitten by your dog, he may try to bring some charges against you. However, because he was trespassing, your dog will have been acting in trained guard capacity, so most likely, the suit will get him nowhere.
However, some uninvited guests can still place some responsibility on your shoulders, especially children. Many children don't understand the concept of trespassing, and if there is something new or exciting on your property, it may act as a lure that draws children to your yard. These exciting things are known as attractive nuisances, and may be anything from a litter of puppies to a swimming pool to a bright holiday light display.
Partial or full responsibility will lay on your own head if a child is injured on your property because they were drawn by these attractive nuisances. In the eyes of the law, you should have anticipated the attraction of certain objects in the yard.
In these cases, it is best to protect yourself and your property by fencing your yard. You can also anticipate damages that might happen and prepare for them. For example, if a child falls into your swimming pool, the parents may sue, even if the child was not supposed to be there. However, you can reduce the risk by covering the pool when it is not in use. It's also a good idea to put animals away when you are not home to watch them, just to reduce the amount of attraction there might be toward your property.
Check out sites like http://www.hvlawfirm.com for more information.