Jun 28, 2024 Michael M. Day Law Firm

What is Negligent Security?

If you were injured due to a violent attack, of course, the person who attacked you can be required to pay for your injuries, but they may either be hard to find or in jail and unlikely to pay much, if anything. However, you may have other options to seek damages for your pain, suffering, medical bills, and other losses from the attack. If the attack occurred on someone else’s property, the owner of that property might be liable for negligent security.

What is negligent security? The short answer is that in certain situations, when a property owner fails to take the right steps to protect visitors from criminal activity, that owner can be held liable for harm caused. It is a form of premises liability. But what are the “right” protective steps? And when does the theory of negligent security apply? The answers depend on the details of the situation.

Criminal Activity Must Be “Foreseeable”

If a criminal act is totally unexpected on someone’s property, then the owner might not be held legally responsible. For instance, if the owner of a cabin in the country lived there continuously for 50 years and never saw anyone else on his property, he would have no reason to expect that when someone came to visit, a mugger would attack them on the front porch. However, if that person owned a house in the city instead, and he knew that the police had been taking reports of attacks around his home every week for the last 20 years, then a mugging in front of his house would not be nearly as unexpected. In fact, he could reasonably foresee that someone might be attacked.

Where Does Negligent Security Happen?

The owners of many types of businesses often have knowledge that makes it reasonably foreseeable that criminal activity could occur on their premises. This includes places such as:

  • Convenience stores
  • Gas stations
  • Hotels
  • Bars and nightclubs
  • Shopping centers
  • Apartment complexes

The owners of the businesses encourage the public to come and spend money at the property, so they owe a duty to keep those customers safe from all types of foreseeable risks. Just as they have a duty to clean up a slippery substance spilled on the floor to keep someone from slipping and falling, they also have an obligation to take the right protective security measures to keep customers from getting hurt by criminals.     

What Steps is a Property Owner Supposed to Take?

When the owner of a property faces a foreseeable risk of criminal activity, that owner needs to put security measures in place that are adequate for the particular risk. This might include adding new security measures or simply making repairs to existing equipment, such as:

  • Surveillance cameras
  • Lighting
  • Locks
  • Security glass
  • Fences

The property owner might need to hire security guards or do background checks on tenants or employees. When criminal activity is occurring in the area that poses a risk to safety, such as sexual assault or robbery, the property owner needs to address the specific risks. If there have been incidents of criminal activity on that property owner’s premises, they have an even greater duty to put the right protective measures in place.

The specific measures required would be different depending on the risk. While a large nightclub in midtown Atlanta might be expected to have well-trained professional security and surveillance at the doors, a gas station on the outskirts of DeKalb County might only be expected to have security cameras.

When determining what security should have been, attorneys review previous cases and compare situations and risks to see what legal precedents have been set. The case often hinges on what steps a “reasonably prudent” business owner would have taken if faced with the same known risks. It takes considerable analysis to determine what the standard should have been and how the business failed to live up to that standard.

Examples of Negligent Security in Georgia

One of the easiest ways to understand negligent security is to consider some examples. An individual might be able to recover compensation if they were hurt by a criminal because:

  • A retail store didn’t provide enough lighting in the parking lot. (Either they needed to install more lights or fix lights that were burned out)
  • An apartment complex failed to put up security fencing between their property and a known trouble spot
  • A convenience store failed to install security cameras despite frequent armed robberies
  • A bank failed to hire security guards
  • A landlord failed to fix a tenant’s broken lock or failed to change the lock when a new tenant moved in
  • A hotel failed to lock a service entrance

In addition, if a business doesn’t have an emergency plan for situations such as a shooter on the premises or a robbery in progress, the business could be liable for negligent security measures.

Damages Available in a Negligent Security Claim

If you were hurt by criminal activity that was enabled through negligent security, you could receive compensation to offset many types of losses. Your economic losses—those with a direct monetary value—include the cost of your medical bills and the money you lost from taking time off from work. But the pain, suffering, and emotional distress you experience after an attack often have the biggest impact on your life, so you may receive more money to account for those noneconomic losses.

Find Out What Your Claim May Be Worth

In a negligent security case, like any other personal injury case, it is a good idea to consult an attorney for assistance as soon as possible. You will need evidence to provide why the property owner should be held liable, and an attorney can help you collect and preserve that evidence early on while it is most available. An attorney can also handle questions from insurance companies and investigators who may try to trick you into saying something to damage your claim so they don’t have to pay. At Michael M. Day Law Firm, LLC, we know how to stand up to insurance companies and fight for the compensation you deserve when negligent security causes harm. For a free consultation and case evaluation to find out what your claim may be worth, contact us online or call 404-480-4284.