Negligent Security Lawsuits: Crime Victims’ Legal Rights Against Property Owners

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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If you have been attacked or made victim of a crime in the parking lot of a business or housing complex, you may be able to pursue a legal claim against the owners / operators of the lot for negligent security.  Although store owners and property managers are not directly responsible for criminal acts, it is possible that they failed to provide adequate lighting or security to protect from crime that they could reasonably believe would happen.  Negligent security cases are difficult to manage, and should always be handled with the help of an experienced attorney.

Negligent Security Basics

Negligent security cases fall under the area of premises liability law. When a property owner is accused of having negligent security, it means that a property owner did not guard a person and their personal property adequately. Negligent security cases may involve hotels, stores, restaurants, malls, parking garages, or apartment complexes. Commercial property owners do not have to guarantee the safety of everyone who enters the property, however, they must respond appropriately to foreseeable risks.

Whether or not a risk is forseeable depends laregly on where the property is located, how attractive it is to criminals, and whether or not there is a history of criminal behavior there.  For example, if the property is located in a high crime area or there have been crimes on the property then the property owner would need to have more serious security measures than the owner of a property in a low crime area without a history of incidents.

Proving Negligent Security

Typically, in order for a victim to win damages, a court must also find that the property owner knew, or should have known, that someone would be victimized on their property because the property was located in a high-crime area.  As there is no bright line rule to determine when security measures are required or even how much security is appropriate, a qualified personal injury lawyer will typically hire a security expert to determine whether or not the property owner failed to meet expectations. The security expert has the job of reviewing public records that show the nature and frequency of crime in the area where the loss or injury took place, and analyzing the existing security measures to form an opinion on whether or not the property owner acted reasonably.  An experienced attorney will be able to use crime statistics and expert opinion to build a case that the property owner should have been aware of the crime risk and failed to take appropriate action.

Damages Available in Negligent Security Suits

Once it is determined that a property owner had a duty to protect visitors or employees, the question becomes: how much security was enough? The answer to this question always depends on the specific circumstances of the case. The more frequently crime occurs, and the more dangerous the crimes are, the more extensive security measures a property owner is expected to take. The measures can range from a monitoring system with a few security cameras to regular armed security patrols. Armed security patrols are necessary typically only when violent crimes have frequently occurred on the property in the past.

A crime victim has a right to recover damages for his or her personal injuries and losses suffered as a result of the crime.  Negligent security cases can be complex and beyond the legal skills of an average person, so if you have been the victim of a crime and believe the property owner failed to keep you safe, contact an experienced attorney immediately.

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