Negligent security claims attorneys in Virginia
Why would a property owner be responsible for a crime?
Before we talk about negligent security, let’s talk about premises liability. Premises liability is the legal concept that a property owner or resident (such as a tenant) must keep the property reasonably safe for legal visitors. This is called a "duty of care."
For example, the owner of a home must keep his home reasonably safe for the visitors he invites over. Similarly, a store owner must keep her property reasonably safe for her customers.
If a customer slips on an unmarked wet floor and is injured, the store owner may be held responsible to pay for those injuries.
The same goes for the homeowner. If he knew he had a stairway with loose boards and didn’t fix them or warn guests to stay off them, he can be held liable if a guest falls and breaks a hip because of the loose boards.
Now, what is negligent security?
The concept of premises liability also extends to security on a property.
If you are the victim of a crime on someone else’s property, you may be able to hold the property owner liable for your losses and injuries, depending on what happened.
If the owner didn’t have any security in place to keep you safe from certain crimes, like rape or assault, he could share part of the responsibility. This is called a "negligent security" or "inadequate security" claim. But proving a property’s owner violated his duty of care can be tricky, especially in a negligent security claim.
How do you prove a property owner is liable?
A property owner is not automatically responsible for everything that takes place on his or her property. To have a successful negligent security claim, you have to show that the property owner knew about a dangerous condition on the property, or should’ve known about it. The crime had to have been a "foreseeable" danger.
For example, a man owns a store in a high-crime neighborhood for several years. Because he’s owned the store for some time, he knows that the area is dangerous for people visiting his store, and that he needs to take reasonable measures to ensure their safety. Reasonable security measures could include:
- Hiring a security guard
- Installing surveillance cameras
- Installing a silent alarm
- Putting up a security fence
- Placing caution signs
If he doesn’t do any of these things, and a customer is robbed in his store, a case could be made that the owner was partly liable for the assault because he did not take appropriate measures to prevent a foreseeable danger.
On the other hand, if the same man also owns a store in a fairly safe neighborhood, he could not reasonably be expected to provide the same amount of security at the store in the good neighborhood as he must in a store in the bad neighborhood.
What’s reasonable in these cases?
Virginia law doesn’t say that property owners must guarantee the security of visitors - just that owners must provide "reasonable" security.
For the store in the high-crime neighborhood, it could be argued that having a security fence, warning signs, cameras, and a security guard patrolling the parking lot are reasonable security measures.
On the other hand, having an armed security guard to escort every single customer from his or her car to the store and back would probably be considered an "unreasonable" security demand.
Who can sue for inadequate security?
The law divides visitors to property into three categories:
- An invitee is someone who is welcomed onto a property for reasons related to the property owner’s business. For example, a customer shopping in a store is an invitee. If a crime was committed against that customer on the property, the customer could sue if the owner didn’t provide reasonable security.
- A licensee is someone who is welcomed onto a property for a non-business reason, such as a party guest at a person’s home. If another party guest, who is known to get violent when he drinks, assaults Party Guest 1, the home owner may be held liable for not providing adequate security, because the alcohol-related violence was a foreseeable threat.
- A trespasser is someone who enters a property without implicit or explicit permission. In most cases, a property owner does not need to supply reasonable security for a trespasser. For instance, if a trespasser breaks into a store to rob it, and is assaulted by another robber who broke into the same store, it’s highly unlikely that the store’s owner would be held liable for Robber 1’s injuries.
Negligent security claims can be very subjective, with few hard and fast rules about when security needs to be provided, and to what degree.
What can I do about negligent security?
If you’ve been the victim of a crime, you have plenty to worry about without filing a legal claim. But being assaulted or robbed does have a price - one that you shouldn’t have to pay. Thankfully, most stores, businesses, and property owners have insurance policies that cover injuries that happen through crime. You just need an experienced local attorney to get it.
When you call GibsonSingleton Virginia Injury Attorneys, we stick with you until the end. We do everything we can to make the process easy for our clients, because we know you’re already dealing with a lot of stress, pain, anxiety, and confusion.
If you think you have a negligent security claim against a property owner for not protecting you, please call our Virginia premises liability lawyers at (804) 413-6777 for a free consultation. We know how to work with insurers to maximize your claim and get you the money you need to recover.
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