Violent crime has the potential to affect anyone. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement reports more than 33,000 arrests in 2019 for violent crimes, including battery, sexual assault, robbery and homicide. If you are injured as a result of a violent crime on another’s property, you may have grounds for filing a Florida negligent security lawsuit.
Negligent security is a type of premises liability claim in civil law that allows for monetary compensation if a property owner or manager failed to put adequate security measures in place that left a person on site vulnerable to a criminal attack.
A property that is poorly secured can result in someone being attacked, shot, carjacked, sexually assaulted or robbed. Although courts do not expect property owners to be fortune tellers and anticipate every random criminal occurrence, it is expected they will undertake reasonable security measures to keep invited persons safe.
Defendants in Florida Negligent Security Lawsuits
In Florida, property managers, landlords, commercial business owners and other types of property owners have a legal responsibility to take measures needed to prevent harm to residents, patrons or guests – especially if those on site are invited there for the financial benefit of the property owner. Failure to do so can result result in a legal responsibility to compensate the victim for expenses, physical harm and profound emotional damage that result.
Courts have held that companies providing security services can also be held liable for negligence in securing a premises. These may be third-party contractors that provide security guards, bouncers or doormen.
Crime victims may also pursue claims directly against the individual responsible for the crime. However, unlike claims for negligent security, civil lawsuits against the perpetrator of a crime won’t be covered by any insurance policy. No insurer will cover damages caused by an intentional criminal act of the insured. That means any damages awarded would have to be paid by the perpetrator through whatever assets they personally possess. Often, the attacker does not have adequate personal assets to make such claims worth it. That’s why negligent security is more frequently pursued in civil court. (Victims of certain crimes may also be eligible for some degree of economic recovery through Florida’s Victims’ Compensation Fund.)
It is important to note that the criminal case against an attacker will be handled separately from any civil claims. Further, while the goal of a criminal case is to punish a person for criminal wrongdoing, the goal of a civil case is to “make whole” the victim(s) to the greatest extent possible, usually through monetary compensation.
Certain family members of victims who do not survive a violent an attack involving negligent security may file a wrongful death claim.
What Do I Have to Prove in a Negligent Security Lawsuit?
Plaintiffs need to show the defendant owed a legal duty to provide basic security measures, failed to do so and this failure left the victim vulnerable to a crime that resulted in physical injuries.
There are no hard-and-fast rules when it comes to the question of what should be considered reasonable security measures. It could mean installing functional security cameras, locks, gates and lights or hiring additional security personnel. Whether security measures were considered “adequate” may depend on:
- The type of business (24-7 gas stations may require different security than a condominium complex, hotel or nightclub).
- The victim’s purpose on site (affects the degree of care the property owner owed to the victim).
- Whether the site is in a high-crime area or if similar violent crimes had been reported on site or nearby in recent history. These would alert the property owner, manager or security firm of the need to enact more stringent protections. (This also helps to establish whether the attack was reasonably foreseeable, a critical element in most negligent security cases. As explained by the Florida Supreme Court in McCain v. Florida Power Corporation, the element of duty in a negligence case may depend on whether a defendant’s conduct foreseeably created a broader zone of risk that poses a general harm to others.)
If you have questions about the viability of your Florida negligent security claim and the necessary next steps, our experienced South Florida injury lawyers are available to help.
Contact the South Florida personal injury attorneys at Halberg & Fogg PLLC by calling toll-free at 1-877-425-2374. Serving West Palm Beach, Miami, Tampa, Orlando and Fort Myers/ Naples. There is no fee unless you win.
CRIME IN FLORIDA ABSTRACT, State of Florida, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, January – December 2019