Negligent security is where a property owner or manager fails to take reasonable precautions to safeguard guests, customers, or clients. If you were a guest, customer, or client on someone else’s property and you suffered injuries due to a criminal attack, you may have a viable negligent security claim. A negligent security claim is a way for a person to get fair compensation for the injuries that person suffered. If a person dies because of his or her injuries, then the cause of action available to the deceased person’s loved ones is wrongful death. Therefore, if a criminal killed your loved one on a business premises due to the negligence of the owner or manager of the property, you may have a claim for wrongful death.
Negligent Security Law in Florida
Negligent security is a type of premises liability claim. In other words, the lawsuit is based on a person getting injured on another person’s property due to the negligence of the property owner or manager. Negligent security law in Florida is a way for a victim of a criminal attack to get monetary compensation for his or her injuries. When someone is the victim of a violent crime, pursuing a civil action against the criminal will not compensate the victim for even a fraction of the losses he or she sustained as a result of the attack. Although some criminals may be ordered to pay a victim restitution, the victim would not be compensated for his or her past and future pain and suffering, lost wages, or loss of future earning capacity. Moreover, even if the victim sued the criminal personally, a criminal rarely has the financial capacity to adequately compensate the victim for the victim’s damages. However, businesses and landowners typically are required to have sizeable commercial liability insurance policies, and this is how negligent security claims can provide justice.
If a criminal attack occurs on a business or landowner’s property, the attack may have occurred due to the landowner’s failure to provide adequate security on the premises. Assuming the landowner behaved negligently, the landowner would be responsible for compensating the victim for the victim’s injuries and damages. Therefore, if you have suffered a criminal attack on the property of a business, like a hotel, bar, club, restaurant, business parking lot, or an apartment complex, you may be entitled to compensation under Florida negligent security law.
What is Negligent Security?
For negligent security claims, a victim of a criminal attack can allege that a business establishment, property owner, security company, or transportation company was negligent by failing to take reasonable precautions to protect people on the property from violent criminal attacks. Generally speaking, landowners and business owners owe a duty to provide adequate security measures to the people they invite onto the premises.
If a landowner or a business negligently fails to use security devices or provide adequate security measures on their property, then victims of criminal attacks on that property would likely have grounds to bring a lawsuit for negligent security. Any violent crime, including an assault, rape, stabbing, shooting, abduction, kidnapping, or robbery, could serve as the basis for a negligent security case. If the victim has a viable negligent security case, the victim may be entitled to compensation for any physical and psychological injuries sustained in the criminal attack.
Each landowner or business has a unique premises. Thus, the appropriate precautionary measures could vary, depending on the property and the location. Some of these basic security measures that landowners and business owners should have in place could include any of the following:
- Functioning fences and gates;
- Security guards;
- Functional locks on doors;
- Security alarms;
- Surveillance cameras;
- Proper lighting in stairways, parking lots, and hallways; or
- Restricted access to the premises.
Negligent Security Examples
There are many ways a person may get harmed because a landowner or business owner did not take reasonable precautions to ensure the safety of guests on the property. Here are some of the more common examples of victims of criminal attacks that could have a winning negligent security case.
- A guest who was attacked at a resort, hotel, or motel;
- A customer attacked at a convenience store, bar, club, movie theater, or retail store;
- An employee attacked at a job site or office building;
- A passenger attacked on a train, bus, plane, or cruise ship;
- An employee or a patient attacked at a medical facility, hospital, or clinic;
- A tenant who is attacked at his or her apartment or condominium complex; or
- A ticketholder who is attacked at a sporting event, casino, concert, or amusement park.
Negligent Security Lawsuit
Each state has it’s own laws regarding negligent security cases. However, most states have a few specific requirements or “elements” a plaintiff must prove to win his or her case. In order to win a negligent security lawsuit in Florida, a victim must prove the following four (4) elements:
- The victim was lawfully on the premises at the time of the attack;
- The premises had inadequate security measures;
- The criminal act that injured the victim was reasonably foreseeable; and
- The victim suffered harm as a result.
Note the “and” in the list of elements above. This means that a victim must prove each and every element by a preponderance of the evidence. We will talk about each of the elements of negligent security in more detail below.
Element 1: Lawfully on the Premises
The first element in a negligent security case is proving that the victim was lawfully on the premises. This determination is typically governed by whether the victim was on the property with the permission of the landowner. For example, if a person over the age of 21 enters a bar, sits down, and has a drink, the person is lawfully on the premises. Similarly, if a person pays for a hotel room, that person is lawfully on the premises of the hotel.
Classifying the visitor to property is a major factor in all premises liability cases, including negligent security cases. Under Florida law, a landowner or business owner does not owe the same duty of care to every person who enters the property. Instead, the duty a landowner or business owner owes to a visitor depends on the relationship between the landowner and the visitor to the property. This legal relationship is defined under each state’s laws and is typically based on the reason the visitor entered the property and whether that visitor had permission to enter the property. Florida law classifies visitors as invitees, invited licensees, uninvited licensees, known trespassers, and unknown trespassers.
An invitee is a person invited onto someone else’s property for public or business purposes. In other words, the invitee is on the property for the landowner or business owner’s benefit. A common example of an invitee would be a customer in a convenience store or a customer at a bar.
A landowner or business owner owes the highest duty to invitees. Specifically, the landowner owes a duty to invitees to keep the premises in a reasonably safe condition and correct or warn of dangers that the owner knew of, or should have known of, and which the invitee did not know of or should not have known of through the use of reasonable care.
Invited Licensee or Social Guest
An invited licensee is a person who enters someone else’s property for a social purpose and with the permission of the landowner or business owner. In other words, an invited licensee is a social guest. For example, a guest to a holiday party or a guest to a social event would likely be considered a licensee.
The duty a landowner or business owner owes to an invited licensee is the same duty of reasonable care owed to invitees. Specifically, a landowner or business owner owes an invited licensee a duty to exercise reasonable care in maintaining the property in a safe condition.
An uninvited licensee can be thought of as a person whose presence is neither sought nor forbidden, but whose presence is tolerated by the landowner. An example of an uninvited licensee might be a door-to-door salesman.
The only duty a landowner owes to an uninvited licensee is to avoid willful or wanton harm to the uninvited licensee and, upon discovery of his presence, to warn the uninvited licensee of any known dangers which would not be open to its ordinary observation. For example, a property owner would be required to remove a concealed condition or hidden trap that the owner has actual knowledge of to avoid causing harm to the uninvited invitee.
A known trespasser is a person who enters the landowner’s property without permission, and landowner knows that the trespasser enters the property. An example of a known trespasser would be a person who jumps a fence and crosses the landowner’s property on occasion to get to the other side.
Under Florida law, the duty a landowner owes to a known trespasser is to refrain from grossly negligent acts or intention harm and warn the known trespasser of conditions that are not readily observable. Thus, if there is a hidden and dangerous condition on the landowner’s property, the landowner should warn the known trespasser of the dangerous condition. For example, if the landowner had land mines hidden on the property (I know, it’s a hypothetical), the landowner must warn the known trespasser of the mines.
An unknown trespasser is a person who is unlawfully on someone else’s property. In other words, an unknown trespasser is a person that enters the premises without the landowner or business owner’s permission. For example, a person who sneaks onto another person’s property without permission would be considered an unknown trespasser.
The duty a landowner or business owner owes to an unknown trespasser is less than the duty owed to an invitee or licensee. Specifically, a landowner or business owner owes an unknown trespasser a duty to exercise reasonable care to avoid reckless or intentional injuries to the unknown trespasser. For example, a landowner or business owner may be liable if the property owner injures an unknown trespasser with a trip cord, spring gun, or some other dangerous trap.
Element 2: Inadequate Security Measures
The second element in a negligent security case is proving that the landowner or business failed to take adequate security measures to avoid harm to guests on the property. A major factor in proving whether a landowner failed to take adequate precautionary measures is the type of property where the criminal attack occurred. For example, in parking lots and garages, inadequate lighting or the absence of security guards could be used to prove negligent security. Similarly, bars and clubs with a history of violence would likely require bouncers or other security personnel to remove violent customers who are a risk to innocent bystanders. In addition, negligent security may be proven by showing the property had unlocked doors, a broken window, a broken gate, no security cameras, and/or security cameras that were not working at the time of the attack.
Videos and photographs can provide some of the best evidence of inadequate security on a property. If the property had working surveillance cameras, a negligent security attorney could use the footage to show that a criminal was able to gain access into a premises through a broken window, unlocked door, or defective gate or fence.
Additionally, during the discovery phase of a lawsuit, a negligent security attorney can obtain other useful evidence of security measures that were inadequate at the time of an attack. For example, during the property owner’s sworn deposition, the attorney could ask whether the business had surveillance cameras, whether they were working at the time of the criminal attack, and whether the owner has a video of the attack. If the business owner responds that the surveillance video cameras were not working at the time, the owner’s deposition testimony may provide strong evidence of inadequate security measures on the property. The attorney may also be able to obtain records from the business owner regarding repairs, maintenance, and malfunctions of the surveillance cameras, which show that the cameras were defective at the time of the criminal attack.
Element 3: Foreseeability
The third element in a negligent security case is proving that the criminal attack was foreseeable to the landowner or business. In Florida, a landowner must have reasonably foreseen the criminal activity to be liable for a victim’s harm. Thus, foreseeability is the critical element in many negligent security cases.
Generally, a landowner in Florida does not have a duty to protect a person from a third-party criminal attack. However, the exception to this rule is when a landowner should have anticipated the type of criminal activity that occurred on the property. When deciding whether a property owner should have anticipated the particular criminal activity, Florida courts usually consider the following factors:
- The specific criminal offense that occurred;
- The frequency of criminal offenses on the property;
- When the criminal offenses occurred; and
- Whether the criminal offenses occurred on or near the property in question.
When prior criminal attacks occurred near the place and time of a victim’s attack, property owners are more likely to be held liable. A victim’s negligent security case is stronger if there were multiple prior criminal attacks on the property that were similar to the one that injured the victim. For example, a jewelry store owner may be deemed to have reasonably foreseen attacks and robberies in the parking lot if the owner knew that other people had been robbed in the parking lot after purchasing jewelry in the owner’s store.
Proving foreseeability often involves researching prior crimes on or near the vicinity of the property. Often, the best evidence of prior crimes is found in police reports and news articles about prior crimes in the area or on the business premises. Police reports and news articles also provide the date, time, location, and type of prior crimes that have occurred on or near the subject property. For example, where a patron suffers a violent attack outside of a nightclub, there can be news articles discussing other violent crimes that occurred at that same nightclub months before. This type of evidence can be excellent evidence that a subsequent criminal attack was foreseeable.
Other examples of valuable evidence in proving foreseeability in a Florida negligent security case may include some of the following:
- Social media posts of criminal activity;
- Reviews and comments about security measures on the property;
- Incident reports created by the property owner regarding crimes on the property; and
- Prior insurance claims by the property or store owner related to criminal attacks.
Element 4: Harm
The last element in a Florida negligent security case is harm. Essentially, if a person suffers injuries, the element of harm is satisfied. Most people who are victims of criminal attacks suffer physical and psychological injuries. Therefore, harm is generally one of the easiest elements to prove.
Compensation in Negligent Security Cases
The compensation will be different for each negligent security case, based on the damages to the victim and the unique facts of the case. However, there are some general categories of damages that a victim of negligent security could be compensated for. A victim of a criminal attack who brings a negligent security lawsuit may receive money compensation for the following types of damages.
A victim of negligent security may receive compensation for past and future medical bills. A victim’s medical bills may include bills from hospitals, doctors, chiropractors, physical therapists, and mental health specialists, as well as any costs for prescription medications. For example, a victim may be entitled to medical expenses for the treatment of traumatic brain injuries, cuts and lacerations, bruises, fractures, gunshot wounds, stab wounds, or any other physical injuries that result from a criminal attack. The records from a victim’s medical providers assist with proving the type and extent of the victim’s physical and mental injuries.
Lost wages would include money lost as a result of missing past and future work. For example, if the victim of negligent security had to spend time in the hospital after the criminal attack, the victim would have lost past wages because he or she would have missed work. Similarly, if the victim’s injuries prevented the victim from going to work in the future, that loss would be classified as lost future wages.
Lost Future Earning Capacity
A victim of negligent security may be entitled to compensation for lost earning capacity if the victim lost earning capacity as a result of his or her injuries. For example, if a person suffered brain injuries and was unable to finish school, that person would lose the ability to earn extra income in the future, and those damages would be compensable as lost future earning capacity.
Pain and Suffering
Physical and psychological pain and suffering are a big part of compensable damages in a negligent security case. Physical injuries cause pain, and the psychological trauma of a criminal attack can cause severe emotional distress and a lifetime of anxiety. These types of damages are compensable in a winning negligent security case.
In addition to the harm caused to the victim himself or herself, there may be damage to the victim’s property as well. For example, the victim may lose his or her glasses, laptop, or smart phone as a result of the criminal attack. If that is the case, the victim may be entitled to the cost of repair or replacement of the items lost or damaged.
Statute of Limitations for Negligent Security Claims
The statute of limitations provides the time limit that a person can bring a negligent security lawsuit against a landowner or business owner. Each state has its own unique statute of limitations for negligent security cases. In Florida, a victim of a criminal attack has four (4) years from the date of injury to bring a negligent security lawsuit. Thus, if you were the victim of a criminal attack on someone else’s property, you should contact an attorney right away to make sure your rights are protected.
Our Orlando, Florida Negligent Security Attorneys are Here to Fight for You
If you’ve been the victim of a violent criminal attack on the property of a business, like a hotel, apartment complex, restaurant, gas station, convenience store, or bar, you should speak with an experienced Florida negligent security lawyer as soon as possible because you may be entitled to compensation. You can contact us online or you can call our downtown Orlando, Florida law office at (321) 352-7588 to schedule your consultation.
If you need a South Carolina personal injury lawyer, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at (843) 638-6590. We have at least one lawyer licensed in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina. So, if you’ve been injured in the Southeast, we have you covered. Don’t hesitate to call us if you need us.
For more information on personal injury cases in general, you can download our free personal injury guide: P.I. 101: Your Quick Guide to Personal Injury Claims.