We get this question a lot. These attacks normally cause serious physical and emotional injuries. Many assault victims spend weeks or months under a doctor’s care. The emotional effects, such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, are often worse. The vast majority of these crimes are unsolved. Overworked and understaffed investigators often have little or nothing to go on. Thus, many victims are often stuck with medical bills they cannot pay and emotional injuries they cannot endure on their own.
A rather obscure legal principle, the independent intervening cause rule, gives these victims hope. In ye olden days, this doctrine shielded property owners and management companies from liability actions . Today, this doctrine is much more narrowly defined. So, this shield is a lot smaller than it used to be. More on that below.
Briefly, assume that an unknown attacker jumps Sam in a parking garage. The attacker beats Sam, takes his keys, and drives away. By the time investigators start looking for clues, parts of Sam’s car are already on the market, because the assailant has gone to an illegal chop shop. Therefore, Sam sees no light at the end of the tunnel.
Depending on the facts, a Lexington personal injury attorney might still be able to help Sam. This assistance usually means compensation for the serious injuries he sustained. This compensation typically includes money for economic losses, such as property damage, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. This compensation makes it easier for Sam to recover from his ordeal.
The Blame Game
Fundamentally, negligence cases force people to take responsibility for their own mistakes. If your children break your good dishes, they face consequences, even if they didn’t mean any harm.
Likewise, if a person negligently injuries another person, there are consequences, mostly the aforementioned damages. Frequently, however, the negligent actor is not the only person who faces consequences.
If your older child dared your younger child to break a dish, you’d most likely punish both children, even if the older one (and perhaps especially if the older one) said “It wasn’t my fault. I didn’t break the dish.” That’s the same principle as premises liability, the kind of negligence that includes assaults, dog bites, swimming pool drownings, falls, and other such injuries.
If your older child hadn’t dared his/her sibling, you’d probably still have your good china. Similarly, if a landowner made sure people were safe, injuries like parking garage assaults probably wouldn’t happen.
Crime of Opportunity
Back to the independent intervening cause rule. This rule’s immunity typically doesn’t apply if the owner had a duty to protect the victim, the owner’s negligence set a chain of events into motion, and the injury was foreseeable. Let’s break these items down.
Legal duty is normally straightforward in these cases. Most owners have a duty of reasonable care. This duty requires them to take steps which make the area reasonably safe. That includes adequate security.
The practical extent of this duty varies. In many cases, security cameras and an on-call “courtesy patrol” are sufficient. Some places, such as dark parking garages, require stronger measures.
Landowner liability only attaches if the third-party assault was a crime of opportunity. If Sam proves that a burned-out light or other security lapse emboldened his attacker, the parking garage owner is probably liable for Sam’s damages.
The burden of proof is only a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). Thus, if Sam establishes negligent security at the parking garage, jurors can connect the dots.
Moreover, the parking garage or other assault must have been a foreseeable result of the negligent security. That’s a lot of Legalese, so let’s look at this idea more closely.
Essentially, “foreseeable” means “possible.” If an assault was possible under the circumstances, which were the negligent security and the overall environment, the landowner is probably responsible. Evidence of foreseeability includes:
- Nature of the Property: Robbery-related injuries are a good example. Convenience stores are prime robbery targets, especially at night. Public libraries are relatively safe. Therefore, security must be much tighter at a convenience store.
- Prior Similar Incidents: The previous incidents need not be exactly the same. They need not have even occurred at that location. Nearby similar incidents usually satisfy the foreseeability rule. The area’s reputation as a high crime area, if applicable, often comes into play as well.
Other factors to consider include the probable seriousness of harm and the burden of preventing this harm. You need a secure fence to prevent children from drowning at a swimming pool. And, fences are relatively cheap.
Landowners are usually 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. Attorneys can connect victims with doctors, even if they have no money or insurance.#goodelawyers