Parking lots are one of those locations criminals are attracted to, especially parking lots that don't have proper security measures in place. When a person uses a parking lot, they're trusting that the property owner and management is ensuring that the property is safe for folks to use. However, what happens when someone gets viciously attacked in that parking lot, and what are the victim's rights? Sometimes, these attacks lead to inadequate parking lot security lawsuits.
In situations where the people or businesses that controlled the parking lot failed to secure the property with reasonable security measures, like proper lighting, cameras, and security guards, the victim may have a claim for negligent security. This is where a negligent security attorney can help victims and their families hold negligent actors liable for not doing what they're supposed to do to protect customers and prevent criminal acts.
Negligent security is grounded in the same legal theory as premises liability. Basically, property owners have a duty or a legal obligation to protect guests and visitors, people who have a legal right to be on the property, from unsafe conditions that the property owner knows about or should know about. That's premises liability law in a nutshell. In negligent security cases, the focus is on the security measures (or lack thereof) in light of the potential for violent crime.
Inadequate Parking Lot Security Statistics
Parking lots are one of the most common places where violent crimes occur, and thus inadequate parking lot security lawsuits are common types of negligent security claims. In fact, according the FBI's crime data, roughly 203,165 violent crimes happened in parking lots and garages in 2022, which means that 20% of all violent crime occurred in these places in the US. These parking lots may be outside shopping malls, restaurants, stores, or other businesses.
Florida's crime data mimics that of the rest of the US, with roughly 19% of violent crime occurring in parking lots or garages. Florida had a total of 3,984 of these incidents in 2022. Georgia had a bit more, coming in at 5,126 violent crimes in parking lots and garages. South Carolina came in at 4,016, and North Carolina posted a shocking 7,225 violent crimes in parking lots.
What is Negligence in the Context of Inadequate Security?
At the heart of every negligence claim, including inadequate parking lot security lawsuits, is a breach of a duty owed, and that breach of duty causes actual harm to someone. A property owner (or any potential defendant) doesn't owe a duty to everyone, and generally property owners don't owe a duty to trespassers. Property owners do, however, owe a duty to people that enter the property to spend money with the property owner and to people who have an invitation or legal right to be on the property.
When a person enters a property to do business with the property owner or business, they are considered an "invitee." When someone has an invitation to be on the property, they're generally considered a "licensee." In most states, property owners owe the highest duty to invitees, then to licensees. But, as we talked about, property owners don't generally owe a duty to trespassers.
A "breach of duty" in this context is part we think of as "negligence." It's the part where someone does something they should not do or doesn't do something they should do. Generally, negligent security cases involve the latter: the property owner fails to spend the money to implement reasonable security measures and keep the property safe for customers and guests.
When we're determining what security measures are "reasonable," we typically must analyze the issue of "foreseeability." Here, the concept is rooted in common sense: We don't want to hold property owners liable for something they couldn't anticipate. So, how does one determine whether a violent crime was foreseeable or not?
This is where data and evidence play a big part in establishing liability in negligent security lawsuits and inadequate security lawsuits. Valuable data for establishing foreseeability includes things like:
- Crime data in the area around the parking lot
- Past crimes in the parking lot itself
- Past crimes at surrounding businesses
- 911 calls to the parking lot or businesses nearby
Shootings, stabbings, assaults, rapes, kidnappings, robberies or other serious crimes on or in the vicinity of the parking lot in the months or years leading up to the incident in question is strong evidence that the property needs more security and that the business owners had knowledge of criminal acts on the property. Accordingly, crime data like this can greatly strengthen a negligent security claim.
When there is more crime on the property or near the property, there is a higher burden on the property owner to increase security measures to protect guests. In other words, the business owners have a higher duty to provide adequate security. Thus, crime data often plays a major part in inadequate parking lot security lawsuits.
What Are Some Examples of Inadequate Security in Parking Lots?
Proper security measures at parking lots will depend on the crime in the area and the history of crime at the particular parking lot. However, there are some basic forms of security that are obvious, and these are great to use as an example of "reasonable" security. Here, we're talking about things like:
People are much more likely to be attacked in a dark parking lot or parking garage than a well-lit one. Now, of course, some areas are safer than others. So, in some areas of some cities or towns, a well-lit parking lot may be more dangerous than a poorly-lit one in another safer town. However, generally speaking, installing and maintaining proper lights in the parking lot is a basic way to protect people from would-be attackers.
Negligent security lawsuits are often brought by someone who got attacked in a dark parking lot or common area, and these inadequate security cases aren't limited to just parking lots that fail to maintain adequate lighting. Inadequate lighting leads to criminal attacks on other business properties, like convenience stores, apartment complexes, motels, and shopping malls. Lights are an easy way to prevent lawful guests from suffering criminal attacks, like armed robbery, sexual assaults, and property crimes.
Some parking lots need security gates, and these gates keep trespassers and criminals out of the parking lot. However, these gates may break or malfunction. They must be maintained in good working order to protect guests. A broken gate that allows anyone to drive into the parking lot is a recipe for trouble. Broken gates are a huge issue in negligent security lawsuits, not just at parking lots, but also in parking garages and apartment complexes.
In some areas, especially those with a history of crime, it may be necessary and/or reasonable to have security guards patrolling the property. Obviously, all things being equal, a criminal is going to choose to commit a crime at a parking lot with no security guards rather than the one with security guards. So, if the business or property owner should have security personnel but doesn't have adequate security, and then someone gets hurt, this could be considered negligent security and might be a point of negligence in inadequate parking lot security lawsuits.
Cameras are a great way to deter crime. When a property doesn't have cameras or doesn't have functioning cameras, this can lead to people getting hurt in the parking lot. So, lack of functioning security cameras is another common issue in inadequate parking lot security lawsuits.
Negligent security cases often involve issues with cameras or a lack of cameras because cameras are a low-cost way to deter criminal activity. Sometimes, functioning cameras are the difference between adequate security and inadequate security, and so this is a big issue in negligent security lawsuits.
Premises liability lawyers and negligent security lawyers will work to gather whatever evidence is available to establish that the business owner failed to uphold its legal duty provide reasonable security and protect customers from foreseeable crimes.