All property owners have a duty to maintain a safe, hazard-free environment for anyone invited onto their property. If someone lawfully on the premises is injured by their failure to uphold this duty, then the injured party may have grounds to sue for damages. This duty to keep the property safe extends to any criminal activity on the premises. If you were injured in a act of criminal violence, and the property owner could have prevented this with proper security measures, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact the Don Turner Legal Team for a free virtual consultation and see how we can help you with your personal injury case.
Elements of a Negligent Security Case
Negligent security is a form of premises liability – a legal theory staring that property owners are responsible for any accidents or injuries that occur on their property. Premises liability covers a wide variety of areas, including slip and fall cases, swimming pool accidents, and accidents caused by structural defects or poor maintenance. All premises liability cases involve a property owner failing to address or warn about dangerous conditions on their property that they either knew or should have reasonably known about. Negligent security is no exception to this rule.
A negligent security case occurs when someone is injured by criminal activity that could have been prevented if the property owner had implemented adequate security measures. The state of Georgia does not hold property owners automatically liable for every crime that occurs on their property, unless the crime was considered foreseeable by the owner of the property or business. Under Georgia law, the following count as examples of “foreseeable” criminal activity:
- Similar crimes had occurred on the premises. For example, if there have been a consistent pattern of burglaries on the premises, the property owner has a duty to address this by taking the proper security measures. If they fail to do so, and someone is injured in a subsequent break-in, they can be held liable. Note that the crime only need be similar – it does not have to be identical.
- There was a volatile situation brewing on the property. For example, if two people on the premises have been arguing loudly for an extended period of time, then any reasonable person would have cause to believe that an assault could occur. If a property owner fails to recognize this situation and address it properly, it can be considered a matter of negligent security.
- The property is located in an area where there are high rates of crime. In this situation, a property owner should be reasonably expected to take additional security precautions. As a 2019 case where a customer was shot and killed in a parking lot established, the property owner must be provably aware of the existence of criminal activity in the area to be held liable.
Property owners have a “duty to exercise ordinary care” when it comes to preventing foreseeable criminal activity. This can include keeping fences, doors, gates, and windows in good condition, ensuring that there are an adequate number of professionally trained security guards on the premises, and making sure that there are other adequate security measures in place. Adequate security measures include but are not limited to security cameras, well-lit parking lots, warning signs, and bulletproof glass.
In certain cases, a property owner can be held liable for damages caused by negligent security even if the crime only originated on their property. In 2017, a Cobb County jury ruled in favor of a victim assaulted at a bus station outside of Six Flags Over Georgia. While the attack took place outside of Six Flags’ premises, the area was known to have a high level of gang activity. Additionally, the assailants had been harassing the victim while he was in the park, and security failed to make them leave.
Get the Compensation You Deserve
There are several elements you will need to prove in order to win your negligent security case and get successfully compensated for your injuries:
- The property owner had a duty to keep you safe. This means that you were legally on the property. Property owners have no duty of care towards trespassers.
- The property owner failed to provide adequate security in response to foreseeable criminal activity. If the criminal activity falls under one of the categories provided above, then it can be reasonably considered foreseeable.
- You were severely injured as a direct result of this failure to provide adequate security. For example, if you are assaulted in a poorly lit store parking lot, and the store owner ware aware of a high level of criminal activity in the area, then they can be held liable for your injuries.
- Reasonable security measures, such as security cameras, adequate lighting, and warning signs would have prevented your injuries from occurring.
Note that Georgia is a modified comparative fault state. This means that the court will evaluate your actions, as well as the actions of the property owner in order to determine how much each of you contributed to the incident that led to you being injured. If you are ruled to be more than 50 percent responsible for your injuries, then you will not be able to recover any damages.
Taking on a property or business owner that failed to protect you from criminal activity can be daunting, and it is not a fight you want to go alone. If you were injured as a result of negligent security, contact our law office today. Our experienced personal injury lawyers will formulate a winning strategy for your case and help you get compensated for any medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering you endured.