Premises liability is an area of law that holds negligent property owners accountable when they fail to maintain their property in a safe condition. The most common type of premises liability claim is when someone falls and is injured due to a hazardous condition. However, property owners can be held liable for a wide variety of accidents, including when guests or patrons are injured by someone else. If you have been injured as a result of negligent security, a knowledgeable premises liability attorney can assess your case and determine whether you may be entitled to compensation.
What is a Negligent Security Claim?
A negligent security claim is a type of premises liability case that involves seeking compensation for injuries suffered as a result of a property owner’s failure to ensure the safety of their guests. The following types of incidents may give rise to a negligent security claim:
- An office employee is mugged when walking to their car in a poorly lit, underground parking garage
- A nightclub patron is injured when a brawl breaks out between other patrons who are highly intoxicated
- A hotel guest is assaulted when someone is able to enter through a side entrance that is routinely left unlocked by employees
- An amusement park guest is assaulted when returning to their car in the parking lot after several similar incidents occurred in recent months
To be clear, the fact that someone was injured in these situations may not be sufficient to successfully pursue a negligent security claim. In the nightclub scenario above, for example, the nightclub may have taken steps to ensure that they had adequate security personnel and that patrons did not become overly intoxicated. The nightclub may have broken up the brawl as quickly as possible, but regrettably, not before others were injured. If you have been injured in similar circumstances, an experienced premises liability attorney can evaluate whether you have a claim and help you understand your options.
Understanding the Property Owner’s Duty
As with any personal injury case, the injured party must be able to prove that the property owner owed them a duty of care in order to receive compensation for their injuries. In other words, if you have been injured on someone else’s property, you must prove that the property owner failed to take reasonable steps to protect guests and visitors from reasonably foreseeable injuries. Generally speaking, property owners do not have a duty to guard against every possible injury - only those that are likely to happen. In the context of a slip and fall case, this would require, for example, the manager of a grocery store to be diligent in cleaning up spilled liquids to prevent customers from slipping and falling. A wet tile floor could easily cause someone to slip and fall, and cleaning up the spill is a relatively simple task.
The property owner’s duty to the injured person is a little less obvious in the context of a negligent security case, however. In these cases, determining whether or not the resulting injury was reasonably foreseeable will be critical to the success of your claim. For example, some of the factors that may be considered include the following:
- Whether the property is located in a high-crime area
- Whether there is a recent history of similar incidents
- Whether there was sufficient lighting or other measures to discourage criminal activity
- Whether there was sufficient security personnel and they had adequate training
- Whether security cameras were functioning properly and adequately monitored
- Whether the property was generally kept secure
The facts will be critical to the success of your case. A knowledgeable premises liability lawyer can review the facts of your case and investigate the incident in order to determine whether you might have a claim.
Negligent Security Claims Typically Involve Commercial Property Owners
Under Florida law, commercial property owners owe the highest legal duty to their patrons and customers than any other property owner owes to any other type of guest or visitor. This makes sense because the commercial property owner has invited the customer onto their property for the property owner’s benefit. They, therefore, have a threefold duty to protect their customers:
- They must maintain the property in a safe condition;
- They must take steps to address any unsafe conditions that they knew or should have known about; and
- They must warn customers of dangerous situations.
By comparison, non-commercial, private property owners really only have a duty to refrain from wanton or willful negligence or intentionally exposing their guests to danger. As a result, you likely cannot sue a non-commercial, private property owner for negligent security because they likely do not have a duty to guard against that type of injury.
Here are some examples of the common sorts of entities involved in negligent security claims:
- Shopping malls and other retail establishments
- Sports and entertainment venues
- Nightclubs and bars
Mixed-use properties (those that include both private and commercial property) can present unique issues, as can VRBO or Airbnb-type rentals. If you are unsure whether you might have a negligent security claim, the best thing to do is speak with an experienced premises liability lawyer.
Who Do You Sue in a Negligent Security Claim?
While the property owner is generally liable for any injuries that occur on the property, there may be other parties involved who can complicate the question of who should be held accountable. A negligent security claim could involve any of the following entities:
- The tenant of the property - the business occupying the property may be different from the entity that owns the property and may be contractually responsible for ensuring the safety of their customers or patrons
- The property manager - apartment complexes and other residential facilities often hire a separate management company that is responsible for, among other things, ensuring the property is secure
- The security company - some businesses contract with independent security companies who are then responsible for providing an adequate number of security persons with sufficient training
- The parking company - the property owner may have hired a separate company to manage their parking facilities, including ensuring that customers and their vehicles are safe
You may need to pursue your claim against one or more of these entities in addition to the property owner. A premises liability attorney will know who you will need to pursue in order to receive the compensation you deserve.
Injured as a Result of Negligent Security? Contact Powell, Powell, & Powell Today
If you have been assaulted or otherwise injured as a result of negligent security, we can help you get the compensation you need to rebuild your life. To schedule a free consultation, call us today at 850-682-2757 or send us an email.