Negligent Security FAQ
What Is Negligent Security?
Answer: If a criminal attacked you or someone you love at a business, hotel, or apartment, you may be able to sue the property owner if they failed to secure the premises. Property owners must take reasonable steps to protect their guests and tenants from “foreseeable harms,” such as violent attacks. Contact an Atlanta negligent security lawyer ASAP if you or someone you love was injured in a violent attack at an unsafe property.
What is a Foreseeable Harm?
Answer: A foreseeable harm is a harm that a reasonable property owner should be able to predict or expect. For instance, if an apartment complex is located in a dangerous neighborhood, the apartment owner should expect that violent crime will occur at their complex if they don’t secure it.
Where Do Negligent Security Incidents Typically Occur?
Answer: Negligent security incidents often occur at apartment complexes, senior living communities, hotels, parking garages, amusement parks, restaurants, movie theaters, and, sports arenas.
Contact an Atlanta negligent security accident lawyer if you were injured at one of those properties.
How Should A Property Owner Secure The Property?
Answer: A business, hotel, or apartment owner typically should implement the following basic safety precautions to keep their tenants and guests safe:
- Hire nighttime security guards
- Install surveillance cameras
- Maintain secure doors, locks, and gates
- Adequately train their employees
- Properly light the premises
- Monitor local crime reports
- Warn tenants and guests about local crimes
Why Should I Sue the Property Owner If They Didn’t Commit The Crime?
Answer: You should sue the property owner if they failed to secure the premises even though they knew, or should have known, about recurrent violent crime at or near the premises.
For instance, a property owner acts carelessly if they fail to install and monitor surveillance cameras despite several armed robberies in the parking lot of their property. If someone is eventually shot and killed during one of those parking lot armed robberies, the property owner must be held accountable for their carelessness. The property owner won’t be imprisoned – they didn’t pull the trigger – but they will have to pay monetary damages to compensate the victim and/or the victim’s family.
How Do I Prove That the Property Owner Was Negligent?
Answer: An Atlanta negligent security lawyer will help you prove your claim. Successful negligent security claims establish each one of the following four elements:
Element 1: The Property Owner Owed the Injured Victim a Duty of Care
The injured victim must have been on the property for a lawful purpose. The following individuals are generally permitted to be on the property: property tenants, tenants’ guests, vendors, hotel guests, service technicians, shoppers, and employees of the property owner and/or management company.
Trespassers, however, are not on the property for a lawful purpose. Thus, as a general rule, property owners do not owe a duty of care to trespassers.
Property owners must ensure that the common areas (sidewalks, entryways, parking garages, parking lots) are reasonably safe for their patrons. For instance, a property owner should install and maintain proper lighting throughout the parking garage so that it is more difficult for a potential mugger to prey upon people.
Element 2: The Property Owner Acted Negligently
A property owner acts carelessly when it does not secure the premises even though it knows, or should have known, about recurrent violent crime at or near the premises.
For instance, many Atlanta apartment complexes harbor gang activities, such as aggravated assault, armed robbery, carjackings, home invasion, burglary, illegal drug activity, auto theft, criminal trespass, and drive-by shootings. Yet, some property owners don’t hire security guards to patrol the premises because they’re cheap. That is a short-sighted, foolish decision that will more likely than not have fatal consequences.
An Atlanta negligent security lawyer will investigate whether there was a recent history of violent crime at or near the property where you were injured.
Element 3: The Property Owner’s Negligent Security Caused an Injury
The property owner’s negligence must have actually caused an injury. For instance, if the deadbolt on an apartment did not work properly, and an armed robber broke into an apartment and shot the tenant during the robbery, the property owner could be held liable if they knew, or should have known, that the deadbolt needed to be replaced.
Most negligent security cases involve violent injuries. However, sometimes the injuries are non-violent, psychological injuries. For instance, the prominent ESPN sportscaster Erin Andrews was filmed nude without her permission by a hotel guest that rented the room next to her room. That criminal drilled a hole in the wall and inserted a camera that he used to film Ms. Andrews. Later, he posted that video on the internet. The video’s media coverage harmed Ms. Andrews’ career.
At first glance, it seemed like it would be difficult for Ms. Andrews to prove that the hotel was responsible for her injuries. After all, how could they predict that a criminal would drill a hole in one of their hotel walls and secretly film a fellow guest? However, evidence revealed that the criminal had requested a room next to Ms. Andrews’ hotel room on several other occasions at that hotel chain and attempted to film her during those occasions. The hotel should have flagged those instances and prevented that criminal from having any access to Ms. Andrews’ room.
Element 4: Proper Security Would Have Prevented the Crime
Georgia law requires property owners to reasonably secure the premises. Property owners don’t have to prevent every single crime from happening. After all, some crimes are unpreventable.
However, in most cases, there are several common-sense safety measures that the property owner could have taken to reduce the likelihood that a crime would occur. For instance, if a property owner hired a security guard to patrol the premises at night, it is less likely that a tenant would be raped in the parking lot. If the property owner installed security gates at each one of the premises entrances, it is less likely that a vehicle would enter the premises and commit a drive-by shooting.
How Do I Identify Other Violent Crimes at the Property?
Answer: You can identify other violent crimes at or near the property by ordering a crime map (also called a “crime grid”) from the local police department.
Every time a police department responds to a violent crime, they prepare an incident report. Next, they log that incident report into their database. Once the incident report is logged into their database, the police department prepares a crime map or grid that geo-locates each violent crime.
Property owners should periodically review those crime maps to ensure that they properly secure their properties from the types of common crimes in their neighborhoods.
Should I Sue the Person Who Committed The Crime?
Answer: In most cases, the answer is no. The person who committed the crime usually doesn’t have any cash or assets that could be liquidated to pay a judgment. Moreover, insurance companies refuse to insure intentional acts. Therefore, if you sue the criminal for damages, it is unlikely that you will ever recover any money from that individual.
The property owner, on the other hand, typically has insurance and assets that could be used to pay a monetary judgment. Even the most decrepit apartment complexes are often covered by at least $1 million dollars of liability insurance. That liability insurance policy usually covers negligent security claims against the property owner. If the property owner isn’t insured, they may still have sufficient assets that could be liquidated to finance a judgment.
What Types of Damages Can I Recover for A Negligent Security Claim?
Answer: Negligent security victims can recover the following damages:
- Lost wages and diminished earning capacity
- Medical costs
- Pain and suffering
- Permanent disability or disfigurement
- Property damage
If the victim died, the surviving family members may file a wrongful death claim. Wrongful death claim damages include:
1. The intangible value of the decedent’s life to the decedent (e.g., the decedent’s family, social and work relationships; the decedent’s favorite hobbies; the decedent’s personal goals and dreams, etc.).
2. The tangible income that the decedent would have earned if the decedent had reached their average life expectancy (e.g., wages, benefits, investments), as well as the value of the decedent’s household services (e.g. childcare, chores, etc.).
Finally, the administrator of the decedent’s estate can file an “estate claim” to recover funeral expenses, medical bills and pre-death pain and suffering damages.
What Is The Value Of My Negligent Security Claim?
Answer: Many factors impact the value of a negligent security claim. The three most important factors are:
1. How bad was the property owner’s misconduct?
2. Was the victim partially at fault for causing the incident?
3. How severe were the victim’s injuries?
How Bad Was the Property Owner’s Misconduct?
Every negligent security case is unique. A five-star resort with no history of criminal misconduct at or near the property may only need to properly light the premises, install unmonitored security cameras, and have a single guard on duty at night. A motel in an unsafe neighborhood, by contrast, may need multiple armed security guards, constant video surveillance monitoring, bullet proof glass at the reception desk, and limited cash in the safe.
Sometimes, a property is built in a relatively safe neighborhood, but the neighborhood becomes more dangerous over time. A property owner should tailor the property’s safety measures to match the evolving neighborhood conditions. If there are reports of violence at the property, the property owner should swiftly act to implement new safety precautions before it’s too late.
Was the Victim Partially At Fault For Causing the Incident?
In some negligent security cases, the victim was partially at fault for causing their injuries. For instance, the victim may have forgotten to lock their door. Or, the victim was a member of a gang and the assailant targeted them because of their gang affiliation.
A negligent security victim in Georgia can still recover damages as long as they were not 50% (or more) at fault for causing their injuries. However, the victim’s damages will be reduced by their fault percentage. So, if the victim suffered $1,000,000 damages and the victim was 49% at fault, the victim’s compensation will be reduced by $490,000.
How Severe Were The Victim’s Injuries?
Generally, severe injury claims are more valuable than minor injury claims. If the victim was struck by an assailant, that claim may be valuable if it caused a traumatic brain injury. But, if the strike only caused a bruise, the claim would not be as valuable. The most valuable negligent security claims involve wrongful death and paralysis injuries.
How Long Do I Have To File A Negligent Security Claim in Georgia?
Answer: There is a two-year statute of limitations (SOL) to file negligent security claims in Georgia.
Two years might sound like a long time. But, it’s not. For instance, negligent security investigations may take many months. It also often takes 3-6 months for your lawyer to acquire your medical records. If medical causation is disputed, your lawyer may also have to hire an expert to review the case before filing it. Therefore, you should contact an Atlanta negligent security lawyer ASAP.
Can I Sue the Security Company?
Answer: Sometimes, you may be able to sue the security company for your injuries. Security companies must use reasonable care to hire, train, and supervise their employees. If the security company negligently hired, trained, or supervised its security guard and someone was injured as a result, the victim may sue the security company.
Contact an Atlanta negligent security accident lawyer if you have any questions about a security company’s liability.
A security company should not hire a security guard that poses an unsafe risk to tenants and customers. It should always run a criminal background check on each job applicant. If the applicant has a criminal history, the security company should thoroughly investigate each prior offense. Then, they should determine whether the offense is disqualifying. The security company should also speak with the job applicant’s prior employers to confirm that the applicant will reliability perform their job duties.
For example, a security guard applicant may have been fired from a prior job because someone was shot and killed during an evening in which the guard failed to show up for work. On his application for the new job, the security guard reported that he was “let go” from that prior job. But, he didn’t state why he was let go. The potential employer should contact the former employer to learn why that applicant was fired. Then, they should decline to hire that applicant. Otherwise, they could be liable for negligently hiring that applicant if someone is injured in the future while that applicant is on duty.
Many security companies do not properly train their guards. They hand their guards uniforms and plastic badges and then immediately put them on duty. That’s a recipe for disaster.
Security companies should educate their guards about the common safety threats at the property. Their guards should be trained to operate surveillance equipment and to properly patrol the premises. Guards should also have crisis de-escalation training to minimize the risk that an individual experiencing a mental health crisis is wounded by the security guard or law enforcement officer.
Security guard jobs tend to be 99% boredom and 1% panic. Given that discrepancy, and the meager hourly wages that security guards earn, many security guards are inattentive.
Security companies should implement controls to ensure that their guards are actively monitoring the premises, especially during the night. Typical controls include: periodic walkthroughs of the premises, safety checklists and performance reviews. If the security company does not enforce accountability, they may be liable for a negligent security claim.
Contact an Atlanta negligent security accident lawyer if the security guard did not actively monitor the premises.
It should go without saying that security companies should fire incompetent employees. However, many security companies retain security guards despite their shoddy performance records. Some security guards routinely fall asleep on the job. Others show up to work drunk or high. Some leave their post for an extended time period. Others act belligerently and escalate non-violent confrontations into crises. Security companies should not tolerate any of that misbehavior.
Can A Security Guard Sue the Property Owner?
Answer: Potentially. However, Georgia law considers violent attacks an “inherent risk” of a security guard or bouncer’s job duties. As such, it is difficult for security guards to recover damages in a negligent security case. An Atlanta negligent security lawyer will analyze your potential claim and let you know whether you have a viable claim.