Negligent Security Lawyers
In a negligent security claim, someone who was injured by an intentional assault on someone else’s property files a claim against the property owner or lessor for the injuries he sustained, on the reasoning that the property owner failed to provide the level of security that would have prevented the crime from occurring in the first place.
Negligent security law is a part of premises liability law, which obligates the owners or occupiers of land or buildings to ensure that their premises are reasonably safe for visitors by either repairing or warning of dangerous conditions on the property. This liability is greatest with respect to invitees (customers at a business establishment, for example) and lowest with respect to trespassers.
Typical crimes that result in negligent security claims include:
- Someone is mugged in the parking lot of a commercial establishment such as a mall;
- Someone is assaulted and robbed while withdrawing money from an ATM machine;
- Someone is assaulted in the courtyard of an apartment complex; or
- Someone is assaulted inside their hotel room
Elements of Liability
Following are the four facts that you must prove to win a personal injury claim based on negligent security:
- A dangerous condition was present on the property;
- The owner or occupier knew or should have known of the condition;
- The owner or occupier failed to take reasonable steps to address the danger; and
- This failure constituted the proximate cause of the injury that occurred.
A “dangerous condition” is a condition that presents an unreasonable risk of harm to people that might not be obvious to them — an open manhole, for example. Certain conditions might be considered dangerous to children but not adults, since children are typically less able to appreciate certain risks than adults are.
“Knew or Should Have Known”
To support liability, the dangerous condition must have been either something that was known to the defendant, or that the defendant could have (and should have) known about after conducting a reasonable inspection of the property.
Which steps are required to mitigate or eliminate a dangerous condition depends heavily on circumstances. Negligent security claimants often allege that the defendant should have:
- Installed adequate lighting;
- Hired private security guards;
- Repaired the locks on the doors; or
- Installed an alarm or CCTV system.
The defendant’s negligence must have acted as a substantial cause of the criminal act, in the sense that the criminal act (i) would not have occurred but for the defendant’s negligence; and (ii) was a reasonably foreseeable consequence of the negligence. A criminal act might not be considered foreseeable, for example, if it occurred in a well-lit low-crime area.
Following are the most common defenses raised by defendants. Sometimes they work, and sometimes they don’t.
- No duty to the claimant: The defendant claims he had no legal duty to protect the claimant (the claimant was a burglar, for instance).
- Adequate security: No security system is foolproof, and the defendant provided a level of security that was adequate in light of foreseeable risks.
- Unavailability: No reasonable security measures were available that would have prevented the type of crime that was committed (imagine a victim of the 9/11 terrorist attack suing the owners of the World Trade Center, for example).
- Comparative fault (claimant): The claimant was partly responsible for his own injury by failing to exercise reasonable care.
- Comparative fault (third party). The defendant might argue that its liability should be reduced because the criminal who committed the assault should be partially liable for the claimant’s injuries, since he is the one committed the crime.. This defense has met with mixed success. Florida courts, for example, are decidedly unfriendly to this line of reasoning.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Under the doctrine of “negligence per se”, you can prove that the defendant was negligent simply by proving that he violated a safety statute — in other words, the defendant is not allowed to argue that his conduct was not negligent despite being illegal. Florida, for example, follows the negligence per se doctrine, while New York follows it for state statutes but not for municipal ordinances.
There are three main types of damages available under personal injury law:
- Economic damages: Easily countable damages such as medical bills, child care expenses and lost work time.
- Non-economic damages: Psychological losses such as pain and suffering.
- Punitive damages: Punitive damages are an extra amount that are only awarded when the defendant’s conduct was outrageous. They are only awarded in about five percent of all personal injury cases.
If the victim dies from the assault, the personal injury claim becomes a wrongful death claim. Every state maintains its own wrongful death law, and damages can be quite substantial.
Yes. Every state imposes a statute of limitations deadline for filing a personal injury lawsuit. In New York, for example, it is three years after the incident that triggered the claim, while in Florida it is four years. If you miss the deadline, your claim will become worthless immediately unless one of a few limited exceptions applies.