Most property owners do not worry about keeping their premises safe for trespassers. They often assume they do not owe duties of care to trespassers, who do not have permission to enter a property. Yet if an accident happens on your property and it injures a trespasser, you may face liability depending on the circumstances. West Virginia’s premises liability laws related to trespassers are complex and important to understand as a landowner.

What is a Trespasser?

West Virginia law identifies three different types of property visitors: invitees, licensees and trespassers. Invitees and licensees both have legal permission to enter a property. An invitee is someone you welcome to your property by implied or express invitation. It can include a customer at a business or a guest you invite to your home. A licensee also has permission, but not by invitation. It can describe someone who visits a property unsolicited, such as a salesperson or unexpected guest.

A trespasser does not have permission to enter a property. Trespassers are people who illegally enter private properties. They can include people who do not realize they are trespassing. Trespassing is an offense that could lead to criminal charges against the perpetrator. As a property owner, you do not owe the same duties of care to trespassers as you do to invitees and licensees.

What Duties of Care Do Property Owners Owe Trespassers?

Guests on a property who are not trespassers deserve reasonably safe premises that are free from obvious hazards. Property owners in West Virginia must search for property defects, repair known hazards and warn people of hidden risks if they are invitees. Owners owe the same duties of care, minus the duty to search for unknown risks, to licensees. In the case of a trespasser, a property owner’s duties of care are unique.

  • The duty not to intentionally cause harm. As a property owner, you may not willfully cause harm to a trespasser, except in self-defense. You cannot set up a trap to catch and injure a trespasser, for example, if you are not in danger. You may not shoot a trespasser who is illegally on your property if he or she is leaving.
  • The duty not to use deadly force. It is against the law in West Virginia to use deadly force against a trespasser who is not posing a reasonable threat of bodily injury or property damage. While you may use deadly force to stop an armed robber, you cannot do so only because someone is trespassing – even if that trespasser has a weapon.

West Virginia Code 55-7-27 permits property owners to use justifiable force to repel a criminal trespasser. If another reasonable and prudent property owner would not have injured the trespasser in the same way, you might face charges. You could also face civil liability if a trespasser suffers an injury due to a property defect if that trespasser is a minor.

What to Know About Trespassing Laws in West Virginia

In West Virginia, trespassing is defined as entering or staying on someone else’s property without permission. This simple definition covers a range of scenarios, from accidental intrusions to deliberate encroachments. Property owners have the right to set clear boundaries, often marked by signage, to prevent unauthorized entry. However, the law also recognizes exceptions, particularly in emergencies or situations where public duty necessitates entry.

The consequences for trespassing vary, typically treated as misdemeanors, but can escalate in cases of criminal intent or repeated offenses. For property owners, while safeguarding their land is crucial, they must avoid harmful measures against trespassers. In any trespassing situation, understanding and respecting each other’s rights and responsibilities is key. When in doubt, legal counsel should be sought to navigate these laws effectively and empathetically.

What is an Attractive Nuisance?

The laws change when the trespasser is a minor under the age of 18. West Virginia law gives child trespassers special considerations. Even if a minor does not have permission to be on your property, you must treat the minor as you would an invitee. You have a legal obligation to warn children about dangerous conditions on your property, as well as to keep your land reasonably safe for wandering children. If you have a swimming pool, you lawfully must put up a barrier and warn children to keep out.

An attractive nuisance is a dangerous property element that is especially enticing to kids. It is your responsibility to ensure the safety of a child trespasser if your land has attractive nuisances. Failure to keep your property reasonably safe for trespassing children in West Virginia could lead to liability for their related injuries. This could mean paying for the child’s medical expenses and other damages. Talk to a premises liability lawyer in West Virginia for more information about liability for trespasser injuries.

Can a Trespasser Sue for Injury in West Virginia?

Yes, a trespasser can sue for injury in West Virginia, but the success of their lawsuit depends on specific circumstances. West Virginia law traditionally views trespassers differently from invited guests, limiting their rights. However, if the injury resulted from willful or malicious conduct by the property owner, the trespasser might have grounds for a lawsuit. It’s crucial for both property owners and trespassers to understand the nuances of these legal scenarios.

What is the punishment for trespassing in WV?

In West Virginia, the punishment for trespassing can vary depending on the nature of the offense and the specific circumstances involved. Trespassing is generally categorized as a misdemeanor in West Virginia. However, the severity of the penalties can differ based on factors such as the location of the trespass, the intent of the trespasser, and whether any damage was caused.

For basic trespassing, where an individual enters or remains on property without permission and without causing harm or damage, the penalties are typically less severe. This might include a fine and possibly a short jail sentence.

If the trespassing involves entering a dwelling or a building with the intent to commit a crime, or if it involves damage to property, the penalties can be more severe, including higher fines and longer jail terms.

It’s also important to note that repeat offenses can result in more serious penalties. The law can also impose harsher punishments for trespassing in certain areas like schools, government buildings, or industrial properties.

For the most accurate and up-to-date information, it is advisable to consult the West Virginia state statutes or a legal professional. Laws and penalties can change, and legal advice is essential for understanding the specific implications of trespassing charges in West Virginia.

Can You Shoot Someone for Trespassing in West Virginia?

The use of lethal force in response to trespassing is a highly sensitive and legally complex issue. In Virginia, as in many states, using deadly force against a trespasser is generally not justified unless there’s a legitimate threat of serious harm or death. Property owners are advised to use caution and consider non-lethal methods of dealing with trespassers. It’s essential to know the law and possibly consult legal advice in such situations.

For specific legal advice or in situations involving self-defense and property defense, it is highly recommended to consult with a WV legal professional. Understanding the nuances of the law is vital in making informed decisions in situations involving potential physical confrontations.


Are property owners liable for trespassers’ injuries?

Property owners in West Virginia may be held liable for trespassers’ injuries under certain conditions. While there’s generally a lower duty of care owed to trespassers, situations involving known hazards that could cause serious harm, especially if they are intentionally set up to injure trespassers, can lead to liability issues for the owner. It’s a complex area of law that balances property rights with personal safety.

What happens if you get caught trespassing as a minor?

If a minor is caught trespassing, the consequences can vary. Typically, it’s treated as a juvenile offense, which might involve a warning, community service, or a fine. The severity of the punishment often depends on the circumstances of the trespassing and if any damage was caused. It’s important for minors and their guardians to understand the legal implications of such actions.

What to do if someone trespasses on your property?

If someone trespasses on your property, it’s advisable to stay calm and avoid confrontation. You can ask the trespasser to leave and if they refuse, contact the police. Documenting the incident, either by taking notes or photos, can be helpful, especially if you decide to pursue legal action. Remember, prioritizing safety and legal procedures is key.

What happens if you get caught trespassing as a minor?

If a minor is caught trespassing, the consequences can vary. Typically, it’s treated as a juvenile offense, which might involve a warning, community service, or a fine. The severity of the punishment often depends on the circumstances of the trespassing and if any damage was caused. It’s important for minors and their guardians to understand the legal implications of such actions.

What constitutes trespassing in West Virginia?

Trespassing in West Virginia refers to entering or remaining on someone else’s property without permission or legal right. This can include both residential and commercial properties. It’s important to note that trespassing laws can vary slightly depending on local ordinances.

What is the ‘attractive nuisance’ doctrine?

The attractive nuisance doctrine applies when a property owner has a potentially dangerous condition on their property that could attract children, like a swimming pool or trampoline. In such cases, property owners may be liable for injuries to child trespassers if they failed to take reasonable steps to secure or warn about the danger.

How can property owners in West Virginia protect themselves from liability?

Property owners can reduce liability risks by regularly inspecting their property for potential hazards, securing dangerous areas, and posting clear warning signs. Additionally, understanding and adhering to local safety regulations and ordinances is crucial.

What should someone do if they’re injured while trespassing in West Virginia?

If you’re injured while trespassing, it’s important to seek medical attention immediately. While trespassers generally have limited rights, each situation is unique, and it may be beneficial to consult with a personal injury attorney to understand your legal options.

Does homeowners’ insurance cover injuries to trespassers in West Virginia?

This depends on the specific policy. Some homeowners’ insurance policies may offer coverage for injuries to trespassers, particularly if the injury was caused by a condition covered under the policy. Property owners should review their policy details or consult with their insurance provider.


Attorney Timothy Manchin established the Manchin Injury Law Group in 2011 after his law partner of more than 25 years became a West Virginia circuit court judge. His focus is on helping individual clients and entire families victimized by negligent acts.

  • Taylor Downs was easy to talk to (I do not speak the legal language well!) and was very upfront and honest about the entire process of my case. He kept me updated as the case progressed, and answered my relentless questions. The end result was a favorable settlement that I’m not sure could have been any better with anyone else. In short, go see Taylor if you have a case. Don’t be intimidated to go seek his help, he won’t blow your brains out with “legal speak”.


  • Being referred to Taylor was the best thing I could have asked for. Taylor and staff are very easy to talk to. I would highly recommend them to anyone.


  • If I ever have to go through it again I would definetly call Taylor right away. The group was so helpful through my situation and handled everything that needed to be done. They made a stressful situation a stress free situation. With Taylor you dont have to worry about one thing. Definietly would recomend to anyone.

    - TAYLOR G.

  • Efficient, knowledgeable, and friendly.


  • Taylor and Tim helped make a difficult moment in life, a little more bearable. Easy to communicate with and informative. I will absolutely recommend them to everyone.


  • Manchin Injury Law Group, Took care of me when I got into a car accident while I was pregnant. Very scary moment for a first time mom but thankfully Manchin Injury Law Group had my back and treated me great. They made me feel as if I was part of their family. My son is now 7 Months Old and very happy and healthy. I’m very thankful for them for helping me through everything and getting me what we deserved. I 100% would recommend them to anyone. If I ever have an accident again they will be my number 1 phone call!


  • The support given helped me to feel like I was included in my personal injury case every step of the way. I was informed about the entire process throughout. It was amazing how quick the turn around time was and I would definitely recommend Attorney Timothy J. Manchin to anyone!


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  • Excellent experience dealing with Manchin Injury Law. They were very responsive, professional and easy to talk to. I did my homework before I hired a lawyer after my accident and I am so glad I found Manchin Injury Law Group. If you are injured, give them a call!


  • Taylor and Tim helped make a difficult moment in life, a little more bearable. Easy to communicate with and informative. I will absolutely recommend them to everyone.


  • Kelly and Taylor did all the hard work so that I didn’t have to. They both cared about my circumstance and got me a nice settlement. Taylor knows what he is doing and I felt comfortable with my case in his hands.


  • Great lawyers. They helped me with a West Virginia case.


  • Such a great experience with Taylor and this firm. Thankful for their diligence and their work on our case. Thank you to all!


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  • My experience at the Manchin Injury Law Group was extremely positive, and I would recommend them to anyone who needs a compassionate and experienced lawyer on their side.


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