Negligent Security Attorneys
Can a Business Be Liable for Failing to Protect You?
If you have been injured by a criminal who committed a crime at a business you visited (or perhaps where you work), it is easy to believe that your predicament is just the result of bad fortune or bad luck: you were in the wrong place at the wrong time. You may believe that the only route to justice is to do your part to put the criminal perpetrator behind bars. However, if you have been injured by a crime committed at a business in Florida, an attorney may be able to help you.
While bringing a criminal to justice may help you to overcome some of the emotional turmoil caused by your experience, sometime though, justice is not entirely served through the criminal justice system. Sometimes, part of the responsibility for your injury rests not only upon the criminal, but also upon a business proprietor who had a duty to protect you from harm, but failed to do so. This area of the law is known as premises liability, or, more specifically, negligent security.
As a general rule, businesses have a non-delegable duty to maintain their premises in a reasonably safe condition. This includes everything from lighting to security. That being said, as a general rule, businesses are not liable to their business patrons who are victimized by criminals upon their business premises, absent a showing of negligence. However, there are important exceptions to this general rule: if the owner or operator of a business knew or should have known that criminal conduct was highly likely to occur, and failed to take reasonable steps to protect its customers from that foreseeable criminal conduct, that business may be liable in tort for the personal injuries suffered by its customers from a crime carried out upon the premises.
Businesses Duty to Protect
Unfortunately, it is not as uncommon as one might wish that a person can be a victim of a crime while on business premises. All too often, individuals suffer an injury from the conduct of a thief or mugger while patronizing a business such as a convenience store, a hotel or motel, a restaurant, a bar, or a shopping mall. Businesses like apartment houses, parking garages, and condominiums are also the scene of many personal injury crimes, such as muggings, rapes, murders, and assaults. For that matter, nearly every large business facility has a parking facility associated with it, and criminals often target these facilities—particularly hospitals, restaurants, and large retail establishments—where it is not uncommon for employees and patrons to be coming and going when it is late and dark and few people are present.
While not every instance of personal injury by a criminal on a business premise creates tort liability for a business, there are circumstances when it can.
General Rules for Negligence
- there is a duty to the victim;
- the duty is breached;
- the breach causes an injury;
- the victim suffers damages.
Every business has a duty to protect its customers and others from harm. Thus, the spilled bottle of olive oil in the grocery store must be cleaned up as soon as possible, before someone slips on it and hurts himself. But when a third party—a criminal—is the direct cause of the injury, a business can still be held liable if the failure to provide adequate security was a substantial contributing cause to the victim’s injury.
Was Criminal Conduct Foreseeable?
The primary issue in finding liability in a negligent security case is foreseeability. Foreseeability concerns whether the business has taken adequate steps to guard its customers from any criminal conduct that can be reasonably anticipated. If a business has never experienced any crimes on its premises and the surrounding area is relatively crime free, and if the business utilizes stringent security measures, such as monitored cameras, security guards, adequate lighting, secure doors and gates, and an alarm system, chances are, it will not be liable for any criminal conduct on its premises because the crime in question was not reasonably foreseeable, given the history of the area and the measures taken by the business to prevent crimes from being carried out on its premises. However, most businesses are not so careful about protecting their customers from crime. This is especially true in these challenging economic times. We have found that the first thing to get cut is the security budget. This includes everything from not doing a security analysis prior to opening a location to firing security personnel. These cases make for compelling arguments when companies choose profits over safety.
Additionally, some businesses, even if they take some security measures, do not do enough, or fail to maintain security on a consistent basis. Perhaps they frequently failed to replace lightbulbs that had burned out in stairwells or other traffic areas, or did not replace or fix broken locks, gates, or fences. Maybe they let the shrubbery become overgrown, providing convenient hiding places for criminals to lie in wait for a victim. Or they did not adequately screen an employee who had a criminal history, or did not train a new employee on what steps they must take in the event of a crime. Even a business that implements and maintains security measures may be liable if they fail to take additional measures in the wake of an increase in crime in the area, or become aware of certain types of crimes that are occurring, for which different security steps would be more appropriate.
Injured as the Result of a Crime
If you have suffered an injury from someone carrying out a criminal act, and the injury occurred on the premises of a business, it is wise to consult our attorneys who handle negligent security cases. Even where it may not seem as though you have a case, an experienced attorney can determine whether there is more to the case than meets the eye.
For example, he can find out the criminal history of the neighborhood, and of the specific facility. Sometimes, it is possible to find letters, e-mails, insurance claims, public notices, surveys, community meeting records, tenant complaints, and other documents that will demonstrate that a business proprietor knew or should have known that greater measures needed to be taken to protect its patrons. In addition, businesses frequently have manuals that dictate security policies, and your attorney can discover whether those measures were followed or ignored.
The bottom line is, when you have suffered a personal injury through no fault of your own, it is only right that those who bear any responsibility for the injury compensate you.
If you have been injured as a result of a crime in Miami or anywhere else in Dade County or the surrounding communities, and you think that negligent security may have been a contributing factor, contact Kaire & Heffernan, LLC. toll-free at (855) 727-7281.