Far too many people fall victim to violent attacks, robberies, and other heinous crimes at hotels, businesses, schools, and other areas that are supposed to be secure. If you or someone you love was attacked by a third party while on another person’s property, you may have grounds for a personal injury claim against both the assailant and the property owner or occupier.
Unfortunately, it’s not easy to win a claim against a property owner on the grounds of negligent security. To prevail, you must be able to prove that the circumstances under which your injury occurred were foreseeable and the property owner failed to take reasonable measures to prevent it.
Further complicating matters, the security standards for one property can be different from another. For example, businesses located in high-crime areas might have a duty to implement more robust security measures than those in low-crime areas.
A seasoned personal injury attorney can review the facts of your case to determine if you have grounds for a claim and how best to proceed. To discuss your case in a free consultation, call the Law Office of Michael D. Waks at (562) 206-1939.
Read on to learn the answers to five FAQs about negligent security claims:
1. When Can an Injury Victim File a Tort Claim on the Grounds of Negligent Security?
In the past, California courts considered the totality of circumstances when determining whether property owners could be held liable for the actions of a third party on their property. But this rule was refined in the 1993 case Ann M. v. Pacific Plaza Shopping Center. The court established that, when determining a property owner’s liability for the actions of third parties on their premises, the following must be considered:
- The foreseeability of the event that took place; and
- How burdensome it would have been to implement the security measures required to prevent such an event.
If the event was not foreseeable or the proposed security measures would have been unreasonably burdensome to implement, the court might find that the property owner did not have a duty to protect against the criminal event in question; however, if the incident was foreseeable and the security measures would not have been unreasonably burdensome, the victim may be able to prevail in a premises liability claim against the property owner on the grounds of negligent security.
2. How Will My Attorney Prove the Attack Was “Foreseeable?”
The answer to this question depends on the facts of your case—specifically, where the attack occurred. If you were attacked on a commercial property that did not have a history of criminal activity, the property owner might not have had a duty to invest in surveillance cameras and other security features since the incident had not happened before. But if you were mugged in the parking lot of a gas station that had a history of muggings, it’s reasonable to assume the property owner could have anticipated such an event and taken steps to prevent it, such as installing adequate lighting and investing in surveillance cameras.
For your negligent security claim to be successful, your attorney must be able to prove that the event was foreseeable. Depending on the circumstances of your attack, your lawyer might use the following evidence to prove foreseeability:
- Reports of criminal activity at the same location;
- The rate of criminal activity in the surrounding area;
- Documentation that shows a recent increase in criminal activity in the surrounding area;
- Eyewitness testimony regarding previous criminal activity on the premises; and
- Testimony and other evidence to prove the property owner was aware of certain risk factors such as a disgruntled customer or worker.
Your attorney may need to bring in a security expert to evaluate the facts of your case and provide testimony.
3. What Are Some Common Examples of Negligent Security?
There are many steps a property owner can take to reduce the likelihood of a violent attack on their premises. Depending on the risk factors, a property owner might be considered negligent if their premises do not have:
- Enough security personnel;
- Security personnel with the appropriate training;
- Security personnel who were appropriately screened before being hired;
- A reasonable schedule for security patrols;
- Adequate windows and doors;
- Sufficient lighting;
- Security cameras; or
- Security alarms.
It’s important to note that just because a particular property doesn’t have all of these features doesn’t mean an injury victim will have grounds for a negligent security claim. For your claim to be successful, your attorney must demonstrate that:
- Your attack was foreseeable;
- The attack may have been prevented through the implementation of certain security features; and
- The security features would not have been unreasonably burdensome.
4. Do I Have to Wait for the Criminal Case to Conclude Before Filing My Civil Claim?
No. Although a conviction against the person who attacked you might strengthen your claim, it is important that your attorney is able to investigate your case as soon as possible. Otherwise, the property owner might take steps to cover up negligence such as installing a new lighting system or security cameras, deleting surveillance footage, or even altering security patrol records.
5. How Can a Premises Liability Attorney Help?
Negligent security claims are not easy to win. As previously mentioned, different businesses are held to different security standards, so you must be able to demonstrate that the property owner did not implement reasonable security measures given the circumstances. That means each claim requires a thorough investigation and must be evaluated individually.
A seasoned premises liability lawyer can interview witnesses, assess the property where the attack occurred, search for records of similar incidents on the same premises, and take other steps to strengthen your case. If necessary, your attorney can bring in a security expert to provide testimony.
Your lawyer can also handle all phone calls and other correspondence with the opposing party or insurance company. This will help you avoid making compromising statements that can be used to dispute your claim.
A skilled attorney can make sure your claim accounts for all potentially recoverable damages. This may include past and future medical bills, lost income, loss of earning capacity, and any non-economic damages resulting from the attack such as emotional distress and pain and suffering.
Discuss Your Case with a Long Beach Premises Liability Lawyer Today
Your Injuries Are Personal to Me
If you or someone in your family was attacked on another person’s property and you think negligent security may have played a role, contact the Law Office of Michael D. Waks. Attorney Michael Waks is well-versed in California premises liability laws and procedures, and he knows what it takes to find success in even the most complicated cases.
Michael will perform an immediate investigation to gather essential evidence while it is still available. He will protect your rights through every stage of the proceedings, and if your case goes to trial, Michael has the litigation experience to represent your interests in court.
Your initial consultation is free. When you’re ready to discuss your case, call our 24/7 phoneline at (562) 206-1939 or send us a message using our Online Contact Form. A member of our team will come to you if you are unable to come to us.
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