Premises liability in Texas relies upon the idea that there are two types of people who enter your property — those who have a legal right to be there and those who do not. Property owners have an obligation to protect the safety of the former, but state law relieves them of this obligation in many cases when it comes to trespassers.
The degree of care you must show visitors is proportional to the right of the person to be on your property.
Duties to visitors
Owners are typically responsible to warn guests, invitees and licensees of any dangers of which they should reasonably be aware. For example, a property owner with construction underway must alert guests of potential dangers like exposed nails or hazardous equipment. Similarly, the owner of a dangerous dog should warn visitors of the risk and employ measures to protect them.
When it comes to trespassers, this responsibility relaxes. While property owners can sometimes be liable for trespassers’ injuries, they generally do not have the duty to keep their property safe for those entering without permission. Property owners should still take measures to maintain reasonable safety — particularly when it comes to land that may be attractive to children — in order to avoid litigation. In other words, it is a good idea to place a fence or sign around areas where you could reasonably predict an injury. While you may not be liable for an incident, taking this extra precaution can sometimes go a long way to exonerate you in court.
Agricultural and recreational lands
If your property qualifies as agricultural or recreational land, the law offers further protections from liability. According to state law, these landowners do “not owe a duty of care to a trespasser on the land,” and further, do not owe any guest or invitee “a greater degree of care than is owed to a trespasser.” This means that in many cases, owners of agricultural and recreational property are not liable for injuries. The burden of responsibility typically rests on the visitor to practice caution and use discretion in their actions while visiting.
Remember that no property owner can intentionally injure a visitor or trespasser — nor can they exercise gross negligence without liability.