Property owners have legal responsibilities
We haven't quite reached the end of 2020, but we've already surpassed 2019 in terms of homicides. FOX5 Atlanta reported that there have been 130 murders in the city this year, compared to just 99 in all of 2019, and that 2019 figure was itself an increase from 2017 and 2018, both of which were in the 80s.
It's not just Atlanta, either. Murders are up throughout Georgia and nationwide. Our communities are less safe, and that means property owners' legal responsibilities to maintain secure premises kick in.
How an increase in crime impacts negligent security claims
Negligent security is an application of premises liability law, the branch of tort law that deals with property owners' liability to maintain safe conditions on their premises. Specifically, property owners and managers need to take proactive steps to secure the premises they manage. It is their responsibility to prevent assaults from occurring.
Just because a violent crime occurs on someone's premises doesn't automatically make the owner liable. Some crimes are freak occurrences that could not have been reasonably foreseen. If a property owner has reason to believe that a crime could occur on their property, however, that property owner needs to take reasonable, proactive steps to secure the premises. This can include installing security cameras or hiring security guards.
One reason a property owner might be expected to anticipate a crime is the overall crime rate in their area. If a property owner is aware, or should be aware, that there is a risk of crime in their neighborhood, then they should respond with appropriate security measures. Likewise, when the rate of violent crime increases (as it is currently increasing in Atlanta), property owners have a proportional responsibility to step up security. If they don't meet that responsibility, they can be held accountable.
Understanding negligent security lawsuits
To pursue a negligent security claim, we have to prove that the attack you or a loved one suffered occurred due to the property owner's negligence. We must prove that you sustained damages as a result of the attack. These damages may include medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, lost future earnings, and any other losses. Some potential grounds for a negligent security lawsuit include:
- Lack of security guards, or poorly trained or inattentive guards
- Not having security cameras, or malfunctioning cameras
- Poor lighting
- Failure to lock doors or restrict access to a building
- Failure to install or maintain fencing and other barriers
Again, the appropriate security measures vary depending on the nature of the premises, the crime rate in the surrounding area, and any history of assaults on the premises. Proving negligent security is a complex and factually intensive process that requires thorough investigation.
It's also important to remember that a negligent security claim is a civil matter. It is distinct from any criminal charges brought by the State of Georgia in connection with the same attack. We can pursue a civil lawsuit against the property owner even if the person who attacked you is never found, or if the attacker is acquitted in criminal court.
A law firm with a proven track record in negligent security cases
We have extensive experience handling negligent security matters and getting results for victims and their families. In one case, we recovered $1.5 million for someone who was sexually assaulted in an apartment complex. In another, we recovered the full policy limits for a woman who was injured by two stray bullets in a parking lot.
Violent crime is on the rise in the Atlanta area. It has never been more important to hold property owners accountable when they don't do their part to keep our community safe. If you're a victim of negligent security, contact us for a free and confidential consultation.