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Delray Beach Negligent Security Lawyers

Delray Beach Negligent Security Lawyers

Have you been injured by a violent criminal while you were on someone else’s property?  Do you believe that the property owner or tenant’s failure to provide adequate security is one of the reasons that you were injured?  If so, then you may need the help of the Delray Beach negligent security lawyers at Demand the Limits.

Negligent security is one of the more interesting areas of personal injury law because it makes someone responsible for the criminal actions of a third-party.   Negligent security, which is a legal theory that is derived from the broader category of general premises liability, is the legal way of saying that locations with an identified security risk should take steps to protect people on their property from that risk.  The idea is that the property owner or business owner tenant is in the best position to keep the property secure from violent criminals, and, therefore, should be responsible if a foreseeable criminal attack occurs on the premises.

What is negligent or inadequate security?

A property owner or possessor of property has a duty to offer reasonable security measures that would protect lawful visitors from the foreseeable crimes committed by a third party.  However, no property owner is expected to predict any and all possible criminal attacks on their property.  They are only expected to take steps to prevent or reduce the likelihood of foreseeable criminal attacks.  A negligent security action is based on the idea that the crime could have been prevented or lessened if the property owner had taken the appropriate security precautions.

What types of actions can give rise to a negligent security complaint?

Generally, negligent or inadequate security complaints are based in violent crimes.  These crimes can include robberies, assault, battery, murder, attempted murder, and sexual assaults.  Negligent security cases are not generally going to be based purely on property crimes.  Instead, there has to be an element of personal harm.  In addition, for a property owner to be aware of the risk of violent crimes, it is not enough that an area is known as a high-crime area for property or other non-violent crimes.  Instead, there has to be a specific risk of a violent crime, and of that type of violent crime for it to apply.

What is negligence?

To understand a negligent security lawsuit, you have to understand what negligence is.  While most legal recovery is based on the idea that someone took an action that harmed you, negligence is much more likely to be based on someone’s omission or failure to act.  The failure to install a light, lock a door, or provide a safe place to store money are all examples of negligent security.  In fact, as the name implies, negligent security actions are all based in negligence. What is considered negligent depends on the specific risk associated with an area surrounding a particular type of property, the business conducted on the property, and the steps that the business owner or property owner could have taken to eliminate that risk.   It is not enough that the property owner failed to properly secure the property; this failure to act has to have been one of the reasons that the criminal was able to accomplish the violent attack.

How is a negligent security case different from other types of premise liability lawsuits?

What makes a negligent security case different from other types of premise liability laws is that there is third-party involvement.  There is no case if there was an identified security risk that the property owner failed to address, but nothing happened as a result of that risk. Instead, third party generally has to commit a crime or other violent act, for negligent or inadequate security claims to arise.  Furthermore, you have to establish that committing the crime would not have happened if the property owner had provided adequate security for the premises.

Why are property owners responsible for providing security to lawful visitors?

The answer to this question is complex and involves a breakdown of general premises liability.  While it might seem punitive to property owners or businesses, this transferal of liability actually makes sense.  After all, under the theory of premises liability, the landowner or possessor is in the best position to: (1) know what hazards exist on the land; and (2) to take steps to eliminate or reduce those hazards.

Do all landowners have the same duty to provide appropriate security?

No.  It is important to keep in mind that different landowners and possessors have different obligations to their lawful visitors.  These obligations are based on a number of factors, but often come down to the amount of control that the landowner can exert, compared to the amount of control that the visitor can exert.  In addition, commercial and residential landowners may have different levels of duty to protect.  A property owner that manages a dorm building may have a greater responsibility towards the residents than a property owner that owns an apartment building, even if the average age of the residents of both buildings is the same.

Why sue the property owner instead of the wrongdoer? 

One of the most frequently asked questions in negligent security law is why you would pursue an action against the landowner rather than an action against the wrongdoer.  There are several answers to that question.  First, it is not necessarily an either/or proposition.  You can pursue a lawsuit against the property owner and against the person who injured you.  However, you may be unable to identify the person who committed the crime.  Second, If the person is convicted of a crime and sentenced to jail, then even a large judgment in a civil suit for your injuries may be meaningless.  Third, if you have been injured, the main purpose of a lawsuit is to recover compensation for any damages that you have suffered; the property owner is likely to have insurance that will cover your injuries.

How do I establish a negligent security claim?

The concept of reasonable care is at the heart of a negligent security claim.  Reasonable care is a subjective concept, which is based upon a number of factors.  First, you have to show that you were lawfully present on the property, that the landowner breached its duty to offer reasonable security, that you were hurt because of a third party’s acts, that the third party’s acts were reasonably foreseeable, that the injury would not have occurred in the landowner had not breached its duty, and that you suffered actual damages.

Was the violent act foreseeable? 

The main factor is foreseeability.  Should the property owner have been able to foresee that a person on the property was at risk of being a victim of a violent crime?  These questions are often fact-based questions.  The existence of prior similar criminal activities is one thing that the courts will look at when determining whether the violent act was foreseeable.  Prior violent acts may make an action foreseeable, but the nature of the act will help shape foreseeability.  For example, if a shopping center has been the spot of violent muggings, then a violent mugging may be foreseeable, but another type of assault, such as a sexual assault, may not be foreseeable.  On the other hand, if the violent muggings are possible because of a security flaw that the property owner knows about, then a court may determine that other violent acts were foreseeable, even if they differed from the type of violent acts that previously occurred on the property.

Some factors that the courts consider when looking at foreseeability include: the history of violent acts at the location, whether the police are frequently called to a location, and the time-gap between the current act and prior criminal acts.  While the courts may look at criminal history to determine foreseeability, it is important to keep in mind that the courts generally recognize a distinction between violent and non-violent crimes.  If there is a history of non-violent property crimes in the area, violent crimes are not necessarily foreseeable as a result.

Perhaps the most important component of foreseeability is the crime pattern in the area.  Business owners in high-crime areas will have a greater duty to secure their property than property owners in lower-crime areas.  In addition, this duty can change depending on circumstances.  For example, if a predatory violent criminal is plaguing a specific area, then it is foreseeable that the criminal could plague that business.

Does a business have to know that a criminal is targeting the business or its customers?

No.  A business does not have to be aware that a criminal intends to act on its property in order to be negligent in securing the property.  Instead, it is enough for the business to have constructive knowledge.  Constructive knowledge can come from crimes being committed at nearby businesses.  It could also come from crimes being committed at similar businesses, even if they are not located nearby.

The idea of constructive knowledge is one that can be very difficult for property owners.  For example, a property owner wants to take steps to secure their property in order to protect people who come onto their property and to protect themselves from liability.  However, property owners also need to be aware that, by taking steps to protect visitors to their property, they are demonstrating constructive knowledge that visitors to their property could be targeted by criminals.

What is reasonable care?

Even if a violent act is foreseeable, a landowner is only required to take reasonable care to prevent future violent acts.  Moreover, the existence of prior similar criminal activities does not mean that the property owner has been negligent just because he has been unable to stop a repeat of the criminal activity.  The court is put in the position of determine whether the property owner had adequate security that should have protected people from foreseeable crime.  This can depends on a number of factors, including crime risk in the area, the criminal history of the property, and ease of access to the property.  As a result, it is a very fact-dependent scenario.

When is a property considered adequately secure?

This can be, quite literally, the million-dollar question.  The answer depends on the nature of the property and its use by the property owner and any legal tenants.  Residential rental properties where the tenant can exercise control over their private areas may have lower security requirements than commercial properties where people have large amounts of cash.  Some high-risk targets, such as banks, may employ security guards in order to help secure their premises.

If a landowner adheres to basic safety standards for the type of use of the property, then the landowner may not be considered to have negligent security.

Does Florida have a negligent security law?

Yes, in Florida, in addition to general premises liability law, there are statutes that specifically address negligent security.  These statutes actually serve to protect property owners, by creating a presumption that property owners and business owners who take specific security steps are not responsible for third-party criminal attacks.  The relevant statutes are Florida Statutes §§ 812.173 and 812.174.  In these statutes, property owners may be able to avoid liability if they have a security camera system, use a drop safe, and have a notice that the cash register contains less than $50.  Another thing that these laws may require is a well-lit parking lot.  However, the presumption may be rebuttable.  Part of it depends on what type of violence you experienced and whether the property owner was aware of that risk and took reasonable steps to abate the risk.

What else should we know about negligent security?

Perhaps the most important component to a negligent security claim is also one of the most difficult to understand.  The idea that the criminal attack or violence would not have occurred without the property owner’s negligence. Like other elements of a negligent security claim, this can be a very fact-specific inquiry.

Conclusion

Because negligent security claims are so fact-specific, it is important to seek an attorney’s opinion if you are the claimant in a negligent security claim or a property owner facing a potential negligent security claim.  A negligent security attorney can review the facts of your case, determine whether or not the facts support the idea that the business was negligent, help you consider other options if negligence is not an option, and help you understand the legal process.  Contact the negligent security attorneys at Demand the Limits today for a free consultation and case review.