Warning signs on your property are meant to deter visitors and trespassers or warn guests of particular dangers. Signs like “No Trespassing” and “Beware of Dog” are common and you may have some of these signs on your property. Many people ask: Does a posted warning sign on your property prevent liability?
A posted warning sign can help prevent liability on your property, but the effectiveness of this protection depends on many factors. Premises liability law is complex, and the factual circumstances surrounding your sign can play a significant role in whether it protects you from liability. Here, we discuss how to display your warning sign and what steps you should take to help prevent liability on your property.
What Is a “Posted” Sign?
The term “posted sign” is a catch-all for the many types of signs that people put on their property to warn others of dangers or forbid trespassing. These signs come in endless variations of both wording and design. These warning signs often include those such as:
- No trespassing signs
- Beware of dog signs
- Electric or barbed wire fence warning signs
- Hazardous materials or substances signs
- Hole or tripping hazard signs
- Slippery floor signs
- No loitering signs
- No parking signs
- No hunting signs
- No solicitation signs
These examples typically warn others of a known danger or notify others that they are not permitted on your property. These signs may help prevent legal liability for an accident on your property if they are correctly displayed.
Premises Liability Law and the Problem With Trespassers
Injuries which occur on your property are typically subject to premises liability law. These laws generally require homeowners to take reasonable steps to prevent injuries on their property. This especially applies to guests or visitors not trespassing on your property. You could be liable for accidents like slips and falls, dog bites, or other harm a visitor suffers while visiting your property.
Trespassers are typically treated differently. Most trespassers are not entitled to a reasonable duty of care to prevent harm. Essentially, they take on the risk of trespassing on another person’s property and getting hurt in the process. There are exceptions, such as if a property owner creates a condition to hurt trespassers purposefully or has an attractive nuisance on their property. These exceptions are highly fact-specific, and you should consult a personal injury attorney if someone is hurt on your property, regardless of whether they were a guest or a trespasser.
Making Posted Signs Work For You
Several factors determine whether a posted warning sign can protect you from liability. First, remember that a sign may or may not be enough to absolve you of liability for accidents on your property. This determination is highly fact-dependent and is influenced by things like what happened in the accident and factors about your sign.
Here, we discuss some suggestions for making your sign as effective as possible to limit your legal liability.
Placing Your Sign in the Right Place
Your sign should be easily visible to anyone who might pass by or attempt to enter your property. It should be prominent and in a location where people are most likely to see it. For example, your sign should be posted at:
- The entrance to your property
- On a front or back gate that accesses your property
- On a fence in an obvious location
- At the location of the warned hazard
- In an area free of obstructions like bushes or trees
Picking the right place for your sign is critical for its potential liability protection. Place your sign where it makes the most sense, considering what the sign is warning of. For example, place a “Beware of Dog” sign on a gate or fence where the dog is likely to be.
Pick a Highly Visible Sign
Consider what the sign you pick looks like. Is it easy to read? Does it clearly warn visitors or trespassers of what you want them to know? A posted warning sign is best when it:
- Has large bold letters
- Uses noticeable colors
- Is large enough to be seen
- Clearly describes the warning or prohibition
Purple Paint Laws
Many states, including Texas, have “purple paint laws.” Purple paint marks on trees or posts indicate notice of “No trespassing” to hunters and other visitors. Under Texas law, the purple paint marks must be:
- Vertical lines
- Not less than eight inches long
- Not less than one inch wide
- Placed so that the bottom of the mark is at least three feet from the ground and not more than five feet from the ground
- Placed in locations visible to those approaching the property
- Not more than 100 feet apart on forested land or 1,000 feet apart on land that is not forestland
Property Owners May Still Face Liability Even With Warning Signs
Even if you do everything right when you post your warning sign, you could still face liability for injuries on your property. These warning signs can be beneficial evidence in your case and may protect your rights, but they are not a catch-all for liability. Signs that warn of dangers may be the evidence you need that the injured party brought this harm on themselves or were partially at fault for their own injuries.
Signs for Temporary Hazards
A sign for a temporary hazard that you are in the process of correcting can also protect you from liability in certain situations. For example, imagine you learn that a staircase in your building has a broken step. You put up a very clear warning sign to exercise caution when traveling these stairs. You must still take reasonable steps to have the stairs repaired. If you do, this warning sign may protect you from liability for a reasonable period of time. If, however, you post the sign and fail to make the repair, the sign may not be enough to prevent liability.
A personal injury attorney understands the nuances of these laws and how they apply to your unique case.
Post Warning Signs Properly To Help Limit Liability
Follow the advice above and post your signs properly. Placing a highly visible warning sign in a prominent location could make all the difference in whether you are liable for a person’s injuries.