If someone intentionally entered the land you own without your permission or refused to leave after entering, contact Wallace Miller immediately to learn about your legal options. You might be entitled to financial compensation.
Trespassing is a crime. It is also a common type of intentional tort. You can file a civil lawsuit against the person who trespassed for the damage they caused to your property. You might recover compensation for your land’s loss of market value, the cost of repairs, and other expenses.
At Wallace Miller, our Chicago intentional tort attorneys have decades of experience representing clients in Illinois. When someone harms you somehow, it is your right to seek legal action against them. Call us for a free consultation at (312) 261-6193 to learn more about what our team can do for you.
Legal Definition of Trespass to Land in Illinois
Trespassing on another person’s property is illegal in Illinois. Anyone convicted of the crime can face severe criminal penalties, such as imprisonment and fines. However, it’s also a common type of intentional tort. The victim can file a lawsuit in civil court against the trespasser to pursue compensation for the harm they suffered.
According to 720 ILCS 5/21-3, criminal trespass occurs when a person knowingly and without legal authority:
- Enters or remains on or within a building;
- Enters someone else’s land after the owner or occupant gave prior notice that entry is prohibited;
- Remains on another person’s land after receiving an owner or occupant’s notice to leave;
- Obtains permission from the owner or occupant to enter or remain on the land or in a building after providing false documents or falsely representing their identity orally;
- Removes a posted notice of sale on abandoned residential real estate intentionally before the date and time on the notice;
- Enters a field used for or capable of being used for growing crops, an agricultural building containing livestock, an enclosed area containing livestock, or an orchard on or in a motor vehicle after receiving notice from an occupant or owner that entry is forbidden prior to entering or remains in or upon the area after receiving the owner or occupant’s notice to leave.
Types of Trespass to Land
Three types of trespass to land can result in an intentional tort case:
- Trespass by wrongful or unjustifiable entry – Unjustifiable or wrongful entry is one of the most common types of trespass to land. It occurs when a person enters, or someone else assists a person in entering a building or land another party owns. Even crossing the boundary slightly can allow the owner to seek legal action.
- Abuse of right to entry – An abuse of a right to entry occurs when a person refuses to leave the property after his right to use or enter the property expires. It can also result from the owner revoking the person’s right to be there due to misconduct and the person refusing to depart.
- Projecting or placing objects on the land – Projecting or placing objects on the land involves a person placing an item on property someone else possesses. The action that leads to trespassing must be immediate or direct.
What’s the Difference Between a Civil Lawsuit and Criminal Case?
Trespass to land can be a civil or criminal case. Both can involve trials, but the procedures might differ. The result also isn’t the same.
In a criminal case, the prosecutor’s goal is to obtain a criminal conviction. The penalty can include imprisonment, fines, community service, and probation. A civil lawsuit aims to recover a monetary award from the defendant for the harm suffered by the plaintiff.
Another significant difference between criminal cases and intentional torts is the requirements for proving what happened. The state requires the prosecutor to prove a defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a criminal case. In an intentional tort lawsuit, the plaintiff must prove the defendant’s actions were intentional and that the harm they suffered resulted from the intentional acts.
Instead of seeing the trespasser behind bars, a plaintiff in a civil lawsuit can recover compensation for their losses.
Establishing Liability for Trespass to Land
Trespass to land is a tort occurring when an individual intentionally enters someone else’s property without a legal right or the owner’s consent. The primary circumstances of trespass to land include:
- Interfering with the right of exclusive possession; and
- Entering or intending to enter land someone else owns.
To prove someone is liable for trespass to land, you must prove these elements exist:
- The defendant entered your land;
- The land belonged to you;
- The defendant didn’t have your permission to enter; and
- The defendant’s actions harmed you somehow.
Each element requires evidence. You must show the defendant is liable by providing sufficient evidence of what they did and the harm you suffered.
However, actual physical injuries or property damage don’t have to occur to pursue an intentional tort case. You might be entitled to compensation for emotional distress from the traumatic experience and other non-monetary losses.
Common examples of trespass to land include:
- A customer staying in a restaurant after the owner or an employee tells them to leave the property
- Hunting on someone else’s property without prior authorization or permission
- Staying in a person’s home after the owner asks them to leave
- Visiting a location that closes at dark after hours, such as a graveyard or public swimming pool
- Construction worker throwing materials and debris onto a nearby property
Intent is also a crucial part of proving someone is liable for trespass to land. Intent can be challenging to prove. You must show the other party intended to enter the property despite knowing they’re not allowed to be there.
Compensation in a Trespass to Land Lawsuit
Tort cases can involve negligence or intentional actions. In negligence tort cases, the at-fault party is liable for an act or omission that injures another person. The injured individual can file a claim with the negligent party’s insurance carrier or pursue legal action in a lawsuit.
On the other hand, insurance companies typically exclude intentional torts from coverage. You might not be able to file an insurance claim for a settlement to compensate you for your losses. However, you can sue the individual who trespassed on your property.
You might recover compensation for your:
- Cost of repairs to the property
- Loss of use of the land
- Emotional distress
- Physical injuries from the intentional actions
- Annoyance and discomfort
- Reasonable attorneys’ fees and court costs
- Loss of the property’s market value
You might also recover punitive damages for an intentional tort. This financial award punishes the defendant for their misconduct and deters similar behavior in the future. To be awarded, you must provide clear and convincing evidence that the defendant acted with an evil motive or reckless and outrageous indifference to a highly unreasonable risk of harm and conscious indifference to others’ rights and safety.
Statute of Limitations for Trespass to Land
You can sue someone for trespassing but must adhere to a strict timeframe. In Illinois, the statute of limitations for property damage allows a five-year timeframe to file a lawsuit against the at-fault party. That means you have five years from the date of the incident to initiate your lawsuit in civil court.
The statute of limitations for most intentional tort cases allows a two-year timeframe for filing a civil lawsuit against another person. That means you must initiate your lawsuit for the intentional tort within two years of the date you sustained an injury.
You will likely lose your right to compensation if the statute of limitations deadline passes before you file suit.
Contact a Chicago Intentional Tort Lawyer for Trespass to Land Today
Wallace Miller focuses our efforts on providing personalized services to every client who hires us. We will treat you as a priority and guide you through the complex legal process. We believe in open and honest communication, so you always know the status of your case. You will receive quality representation from a dedicated and experienced legal team.
At Wallace Miller, we understand the financial burdens of pursuing a legal case while paying to restore your property to how it was before someone trespassed. You might worry about whether you can afford the cost of hiring a lawyer. You don’t have to pay upfront fees or costs when you hire us. We take cases on contingency. We won’t collect our legal fees unless we secure compensation for you.
If you were the victim of trespass to land, call Wallace Miller at (312) 261-6193 for your free consultation today. Let us help you seek justice and fight for the compensation you deserve.