While violent crime has trended downward in recent years, both nationally and in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, it continues to be a serious problem. In 2013, there were 1.2 million violent crimes in the U.S. reported to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. In Boston that year, more than 5,000 violent crimes occurred, with most of those being for aggravated assault, rape and robbery.
Negligent security attorneys at The Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman know surviving victims may be forever changed by such acts. In addition to suffering extensive physical injuries, many carry emotional scars that can last a lifetime.
It’s true that in all cases, blame rests with the attackers. But it’s also true that a lot of these attacks would not happen were it not for the negligent security of property owners and property managers.Understanding Negligent Security Law
Negligent security law is a subset of premises liability law, and stems from situations in which a person is injured by another person and seeks to hold liable the owner or possessor of a premises on which injury occurred. Normally, no one can be held responsible for actions of third-parties. However, there are some exceptions. The injured victim (known as the plaintiff in a lawsuit) has legal standing to pursue litigation against a property owner or possessor because the law requires those entities provide reasonable security measures to protect certain individuals from foreseeable harmful acts by third parties.
Essentially, had the property owner taken reasonable steps to protect lawful visitors against foreseeable risks, the attack and subsequent injury would not have occurred.
Claims for damages in negligent security cases can include compensation for:
- Medical expenses
- Ongoing mental health treatment
- Lost wages
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of life enjoyment
- Loss of consortium (by victim’s spouse)
A negligent security claim could be based on anything from poorly trained security personnel to poor lighting to broken locks or security systems.
Some examples of places in which crimes might occur and issues of negligent security could arise:
- Bars or restaurants
- Parking lots and garages
- College campuses and dorm rooms
- Nursing homes and assisted living residences
- Malls and shopping centers
- Apartment complexes
- Government buildings
- Gated communities
There isn’t any specific code or list of all reasonable security measures each type of location must have in order to protect visitors. This means determining liability is based on a number of considerations that must be carefully weighed by the court. That’s why victims of violent crimes must seek consultation from an experienced legal team in determining how best to proceed.
It’s true that sometimes in criminal courts, perpetrators will be required to pay restitution to victims. However, that is not always the case. Many times, defendants are indigent and cannot afford their own defense lawyer, let alone pay significant restitution. But even when violent criminal offenders have financial means, the goal of the criminal court is not compensation for the victim. It is justice. That’s a worthy endeavor and often a key one necessary for victims to obtain closure. But it won’t pay their medical bills and other expenses.
What’s more, by addressing negligence of property owners or possessors in failing to protect lawful visitors, we work to ensure the same kinds of lapses aren’t repeated.Proving Negligent Security
It’s worth noting that property owners don’t have to guarantee that everyone who enters the property will be safe or free of harm. What they are required to do is respond appropriately when there is a foreseeable risk.
In weighing whether a risk is foreseeable, courts will analyze where the property is located, how attractive it might be to criminals and whether there is a history of criminal behavior there. For example, owners of a nightclub where two shootings were reported in the last six months would be held to a higher standard in terms of security than a similar business in a low-crime area with no prior violent acts reported.
Similarly, a bar that serves alcohol into the early morning hours will be held to a higher standard of security than a family-style restaurant that closes at 9 p.m.
Plaintiffs need to show property owner knew or should have known someone would be victimized on that property – either because the area was high crime or because of the nature of the establishment – and the property owners still failed to take reasonable action to mitigate risk.
In many cases, a plaintiff’s legal team will need to hire a security expert who will analyze evidence and testify as to whether the property owner failed to meet those expectations. That expert witness will need to review the frequency and nature of crimes reported in the area, the kinds of security measures that were taken and whether additional action was reasonably required.
Additionally, plaintiffs need to show they were on the property lawfully. That is, they were not trespassing and were invited as a tenant, social guest, business invitee or member of the public.
Victims of violent crime have the right to recover damages that result at least in part from negligent security measures.
Contact the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman today for a free and confidential consultation.
Call (617) 367-2900 – NO FEE UNLESS SUCCESSFUL