Negligent Security Claims: A Closer Look

| Aug 19, 2020 | Negligent Security

The average injury-related hospital bill usually exceeds $100,000. For liability reasons, health insurance companies typically refuse to cover these costs. And, very few families have the financial wherewithal to pay them out of pocket.

So, in addition to obtaining compensation for injuries, a Lexington personal injury attorney takes care of immediate needs. That means connecting victims with top doctors who understand the nature of negligent security-related injuries, like head injuries. Generally, this treatment is available at no upfront cost. Medical providers usually agree to defer billing until the case is resolved.

Negligent Security Injuries

As mentioned, head injuries are among the most common wounds in an assault or other negligent security-related claim. Most of these incidents involve falls. Typically, the sudden, jarring motion of a fall is sufficient to cause a head injury.

Contrary to popular myth, the brain does not fit snugly inside the skull, like a key into a lock. Instead, the skull is basically a water tank full of cerebrospinal fluid. This water tank holds the brain in suspended animation. So, when the victim falls, the brain slams against the inside of the skull.

Sexual assault injuries are also far too common in these cases. In criminal court, these incidents are difficult to prove, because of the high burden of proof. But in civil court, the burden of proof is only a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). So, a little evidence, like the victim/plaintiff’s own testimony, goes a long way.

Examples of negligent security include physical items, like burned-out security lights and gaps in security fences, and live security issues, such as a “courtesy patrol” or an unarmed guard when armed security is arguably necessary.

Legal Duty

Like many other states, Kentucky courts use a common-law classification system to establish legal duty, or the lack thereof, in a negligent security or other premises liability claim. These categories are:

  • Invitee (permission to be on the land and economic or noneconomic benefit to the owner),
  • Licensee (permission but no benefit), and
  • Trespasser (no benefit and no permission). 

Most negligent security victims are invitees. Examples include retail shoppers, whether they buy anything or not, hotel guests, building tenants, and apartment tenants.

Since the relationship between the owner and victim is so close, the owner has a very high duty of care. This duty of reasonable care includes a responsibility to ensure that the premises are secure.

Knowledge of Hazard

Duty is a question of law for the judge. Knowledge of the hazard is a question of fact for the jury. Once again, victim/plaintiffs must establish knowledge by a preponderance of the evidence. This evidence can be direct or circumstantial.

Direct evidence of actual knowledge includes “smoking guns” like prior incident reports and police reports. Attorneys usually uncover such evidence during discovery. Defendants have a legal duty to turn over such evidence for inspection. A lawyer simply needs to know the right questions to ask.

Circumstantial evidence of constructive knowledge (should have known) usually involves the time-notice rule. Assume a parking garage light burns out, creating a dark corner. It’s only a matter of time before an evildoer takes advantage of that situation.

Foreseeability Issues

Property owners are only responsible for foreseeable negligent security injuries. Foreseeability is not synonymous with “inevitable” or even “likely.” Instead, foreseeable basically means “possible.” Evidence of foreseeability includes:

  • Prior similar incidents at that location,
  • Previous lack of security complaints,
  • Whether the location is in a “high crime area,”
  • The nature of the establishment (e.g. banks are more likely to be robbed than grocery stores), and
  • Prior similar incidents in the neighborhood.

Foreseeability and knowledge often overlap. Evidence of foreseeability is also evidence of knowledge. If an assault or other incident happened somewhere nearby, it will probably happen at another location as well.

Compensation in negligent security claims usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.

Property owners are generally responsible for injuries related to negligent security. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Lexington, contact the Goode Law Office, PLLC. You have a limited amount of time to act.