Negligent Security Claims: A Closer Look

by | Jan 5, 2022 | Negligent Security

If they are hurt in an assault or other similar incident, most people immediately call the police, and for good reason. Law enforcement investigators solve almost 70 percent of reported violent crimes. The percentage is even higher if authorities get to work straight away. 

However, the criminal law system is almost exclusively penal. Occasionally, judges order defendants to pay medical bills and other direct economic losses as part of their court-ordered probation. Sometimes these defendants pay, and sometimes they don’t. Additionally, limited compensation is sometimes available through the state victims’ compensation fund.

To obtain maximum compensation for your injuries, a Lexington personal injury attorney can file a claim against the property owner in civil court. This compensation usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. That’s more compensation than is available through the state. Furthermore, the property owner’s insurance company has a legal duty to pay these claims.

Legal Elements of Your Claim

Generally, this compensation is available if the property owner had a legal duty to care for the victim’s safety, the owner knew, or should have known, about the hazard which led to the injury, and the injury was foreseeable.

In Kentucky and most other states, the extent of the property owner’s legal duty typically depends on the relationship between the victim and owner, as follows:

  • Invitee: If the victim had direct or indirect permission to be on the land and the victim’s presence benefited the owner in any way, the owner usually has a duty of reasonable care. This duty requires the owner to ensure safety at all times.
  • Licensee: People like guests of apartment tenants are licensees. These individuals have permission to be on the property, but there is no benefit to the owner. In these situations, owners must warn people about latent (hidden) defects.
  • Trespasser: People who enter property without the owner’s permission and provide no benefit are usually trespassers. Some legal doctrines, like the attractive nuisance rule, protect some child trespassers in some cases.

Knowledge is the second basic element of a negligent security claim. As mentioned, this knowledge could be actual or constructive (should have known). Victim/plaintiffs typically use the time-notice rule to establish constructive knowledge. If the hazard just occurred, like the security light just burned out, the owner probably didn’t know about it.

Finally, if a third-party act caused injury, that act must have been foreseeable. Generally, foreseeability depends on the amount of traffic at the property and the type of business.

A church is a pretty good example of these extremes. On most weekdays, there’s almost no traffic at a church, so security requirements are usually low. A few cameras and secure doors are probably sufficient. But weekends are different. There are a lot of people moving in and out. Furthermore, there have been some very high-profile church shootings in recent years. So, the duty to provide adequate security probably requires live, armed security guards.

Other foreseeability factors include the area’s reputation as a high-crime area, if any, prior similar incidents at the property or in the neighborhood, and additional details about the nature of the business. For example, bars and other establishments which serve alcohol are more likely to have assaults and other such issues.

Possible Defenses

Comparative fault and assumption of the risk are among the most common legal defenses in negligent security claims.

In a negligent security claim, comparative fault is usually a failure to be accountable for one’s own safety. People who walk alone at night or flaunt their wealth are sometimes partially responsible for their own negligent security injuries.

Such behavior typically only reduces the amount of available compensation. Kentucky is a pure comparative fault state. Even if the victim was 99 percent responsible for the injury, the landowner is still liable for a proportionate share of damages.

Assumption of the risk is different. This doctrine excuses liability if the victim voluntarily assumed a known risk. The risks mentioned above are not “known” ones. People walk through dark alleys every day and nothing happens to them. Instead, assumption of the risk usually involves a warning sign, like “watch your valuables.” 

A sign by itself is insufficient. The insurance company must also prove the victim saw the sign, could read the sign, and could understand what it meant.

Injury victims are usually entitled to substantial compensation. 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. #goodelawyers