Parking garages are some of the most attractive spots for violent criminals. They're a hotspot for crime, and people get attacked and assaulted in parking garages every day. Often times, folks get attacked because the parking garage doesn't have sufficient security to deter violent crime.
We've all walked through a parking garage that's nearly empty. The lights are flickering, and the silence is eerie. Nobody is around, and the goal is to get to your vehicle as soon as possible and get out of there. The anxiety in these situations is not misplaced; this is exactly the scenario for attack victims. Some of us make it out of there just fine, but there are some that are much less fortunate.
The laws in many states, including Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina, allow victims of violent crime to pursue a lawsuit against a property owner, security company, or property manager when inadequate security leads to a violent criminal attack. These cases are called negligent security or inadequate security cases, and they stem from the responsibility of landowners and business owners to take reasonable steps to protect lawful guests from foreseeable violent crime. In this article, we'll provide information relevant to those seeking to sue a parking garage for negligent security.
Parking Garage Crime Statistics
People are more likely to be attacked in a parking garage or in a parking lot than just about any other business premises. In fact, according to crime data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), about 6% of all violent crime that occurred in 2022 happened in a parking garage or parking lot. This works out to about 62,764 violent crimes occurring in a parking garage or parking lot in 2022 alone.
Negligent Security Overview
Before we talk more in detail about whether you can sue a parking garage for negligent security and what that process entails, let's discuss negligent security more generally. Negligent security is a way for victims of violent crime to hold a property owner, or any other person or entity that is responsible, liable for harm that results from inadequate security on the property. This is a type of premises liability claim, and so the focus in these cases is on whether the property owner took proper steps to prevent guests and invitees from suffering harm.
Examples of Inadequate Security or Negligent Security in a Parking Garage
A property owner commits negligence by failing to provide reasonable security for guests and that failure, sometimes called a "breach," leads to a person getting harmed or killed in a criminal attack. Although there are many ways a landowner might be found negligent in these circumstances, some of the more common examples of inadequate security include:
- Inadequate lighting in and around the parking garage
- Lack of surveillance cameras
- No security personnel or too few security guards for the property
- No gates to prevent trespassers or violent criminals (or malfunctioning gates)
- No signage to prevent trespassers or violent criminals
A lack of anything that could deter violent crime and could be considered a "reasonable" security measure might serve as the basis of a negligent security claim. The issue of whether it is a "reasonable" security measure will often boil down to the history of crime at the garage and in the area, as well as the cost to implement the security measure.
Common Violent Crimes in Parking Garages
While any violent crime in a parking garage may serve as the basis of a negligent security claims (so long as the person suffers actual harm), there are several types of violent crimes that are more common than the rest.
- Shootings, Stabbings, and Physical Assaults: Victims of crimes in parking garages are often shot, stabbed, or physically attacked. These incidents are much more likely to occur in parking garages where there is insufficient lighting and/or no security guards patrolling the premises.
- Robbery: Criminals often approach victims in parking garages and threaten violence with a knife or a gun in order to intimidate the victim into handing over valuable personal property. When the victim's property is taken by force or threat of violence, this is a textbook robbery, and it's a traumatic event for anyone to experience.
- Sexual Assault: In some of the most heartbreaking cases, people are raped or sexually assaulted in parking garages. These types of attacks can cause the most severe psychological scars, and the trauma often lasts a lifetime.
Who Is Liable When a Person Gets Attacked in a Parking Garage?
The issue of who is liable when a person gets hurt in a criminal attack at a parking garage will boil down to the parties involved and their responsibilities and duties as it pertains to the property. Some of the parties that are most commonly liable for a violent attack at a parking garage include:
- Property Owner: The property owner or landlord usually has a duty to maintain parking lots, parking garages, and other common areas. When a landlord fails to implement security measures or warn lawful guests of potential danger on the property, the property owner may be held liable for the victim's damages.
- Business Owner: A business owner will often lease the property that the business is on. Even though the business owner doesn't own the property, they control it. Thus, a business owner may face liability if the business owner doesn't take reasonable steps to protect guest and patrons of the business.
- Security Guard: Security guards that don't perform their duties to protect the property may be liable if someone gets hurt while they're not properly securing the property. Additionally, security guards themselves may commit crimes against guests or patrons and thus expose themselves to civil liability.
- Security Company: When a security guard negligently performs his or her duty, the security company or security firm that hired that security guard may be liable for the security guard's actions or inactions. Thus, the company may be liable when one of its employees commits negligence. The company may also be liable for negligently hiring an unqualified security guard or for not properly training the security guard, sometimes called "negligent hiring" or "negligent retention."
- Maintenance Company: Sometimes, a maintenance company may be responsible for keeping the security equipment in good working conditions. When the maintenance company fails its duty and someone gets hurt, the maintenance company may be held liable.
When you're seeking to sue a parking garage for negligent security, it's critical that you and your negligent security guard work together to uncover all the potential defendants because each potential defendant may carry an insurance policy that could provide coverage for the harm suffered.
The Key to a Successful Negligent Security Claim
A successful negligent security claim requires proving the owner of the property owed a duty to the victim; that the owner breached that duty; and that the owner's breach of duty caused the victim's harm. Whether the owner owes a victim a duty will boil down to the victim's status on the property at the time of the attack. Generally, owners don't owe a duty to a trespasser. So, as long as the victim was lawfully on the property, the owner likely owes the victim a duty to provide the victim with a property that is free from an unreasonable risk of harm.
Whether the owner "breached" the duty of harm will involve an analysis of the security measures in place at the time the victim was attacked. The determination about whether the security measures were "reasonable" will require us to determine whether the violent crime was foreseeable. The issue of "foreseeability" is a big one in the area of negligent security law because property owners owe a duty to protect visitors and guests from foreseeable crimes. In other words, we don't hold property owners liable for things they couldn't see coming.
When we're tackling the issue of foreseeability, we use information like crime data in the area, 911 reports on the property, and any other data that would tend to show that the landowner knew about the potential for violent crime on the property. The more crime on the property, the more notice the landowner has of that crime, and thus this will often increase the burden on the landowner to increase security on the property.
Finally, we also need to show actual harm. In other words, the victim must have been injured or attacked and must have suffered some sort of damage. When a person is shot, stabbed, or assaulted, this element is obviously established.
Hypothetical: Example of How to Establish Liability in a Parking Garage Shooting Case
Let's say Victor Victim parks in a parking garage to enter a shopping mall to eat dinner with friends. At about 10pm, Victor leaves the restaurant and walks across the street to the parking garage. He notices that the gate is broken, and the arm is stuck up in the air at about a 60-degree angle. He also notices that a lot of the lights are out, and others are flickering.
Victor parked down in the corner of the parking garage on the second floor. So, he walks to his right all the way to the end of the parking garage and enters a stairwell. He notices the lights are out in the stairwell, but he isn't aware of any other stairs he can use to get to his vehicle. He climbs the stairs and turns the corner to clime the last flight. He sees a masked man standing there. The man demands Victor's wallet; however, Victor doesn't move fast enough. The attacker stabs Victor in the stomach, takes his wallet, and runs away.
Victor spends a lot of days in the hospital. While he's there, he learns that the parking garage had been the site of multiple shootings in the year before he was attacked. He also hears from his friends that folks don't park there at night because the lights are always out, and the gates are never working. He wonders to himself: Is there anything I can do?
The answer is, Yes. Victor likely has a good negligent security case against the parking garage. Here's what he needs to prove:
- Victor needs to show that the parking garage was dangerous. He can show this because the parking garage has a history of violent crimes. Additionally, the parking garage didn't have proper lighting at the time Victor was attacked, and the gate was out. To further bolster his case, Victor has friends that are willing to testify that the lights are often out in that garage, and the gates rarely work.
- Victor needs to show that the property owner knew about the issues at the parking garage. He can show this because the parking garage had a history of violent attacked that had been the subject of several local news stores. Also, with the history of faulty lighting and gates, the property owner should have known that the parking garage was not properly secured. Additionally, the property owner should have hired security personnel after people got attacked on the property in the months before Victor was attacked.
- Victor needs to be able to show that the parking garage owner didn't take reasonable steps to secure the property. He can show this because there was a history of crime on the property, and the lights and gates were nevertheless malfunctioning. In other words, even after crimes had taken place, the landowner still failed to make sure the property was properly secured.
- Finally, Victor needs to show that he was hurt and that his injuries would not have occurred if the landowner had implemented proper security measures. He can show this because he was shot, and the criminal likely wouldn't have chosen to commit crime in this particular parking garage if it had good lighting and functioning gates and security personnel patrolling the property.
How Long Do I Have to File a Negligent Security Lawsuit?
The deadline for filing a negligent security case is determined by the state's statute of limitations. A case must be filed within the statute of limitations. Otherwise, it is subject to dismissal, and the claimant may lose his or her rights to pursue justice under the civil legal system.
Each state is different, but most states allow a couple of years from the date of the incident or the date of death within which a person can file their negligent security lawsuit.
- Florida: The statute of limitations for negligent security personal injury claims in Florida is two (2) years from the date of injury. For negligent security wrongful death claims, the statute of limitations if two (2) years from the date of death. The statute of limitations in Florida is Florida Statute 95.11.
- Georgia: In Georgia, the statute of limitations for personal injury lawsuits, including negligent security, it two (2) years from the date of incident. For wrongful death negligent security claims, the statute of limitations is generally two (2) years from the victim's death.
- South Carolina: In South Carolina, you generally have three (3) years from the date of incident to file a personal injury claim based on negligent security. If it's a wrongful death case, the statute of limitations in South Carolina is generally three (3) years from the date of death.
- North Carolina: In North Carolina, the statute of limitations for negligent security personal injury cases is three (3) years from the date of injury. However, if it's a wrongful death case, the statute of limitations in North Carolina is generally two (2) years from the date of death.
Each state will have unique exceptions and rules regarding the statute of limitations. However, the data above gives you a general idea of how state statute of limitations are set up. The main point here is that if you intend to sue a parking garage for negligent security, you should speak with an attorney right away.