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Is a Property Owner Responsible for Crimes Committed on their Land?


Many of us are aware of a property owner’s responsibility toward a visitor’s safety. For instance, a person can file a lawsuit for a slip-and-fall. Businesses must take the utmost care of customers and browsers. These visitors, after all, support the business with their finances. Private landowners are less responsible for your safety, but they cannot be grossly negligent, overtly endangering visitors.

Sometimes, dangerous conditions are not the fault of the landowner. A criminal can invade a property, cause injury, and leave. This situation raises many questions. Businesses, for example, are responsible for having security, but they can’t always prevent a crime. What if, however, the crime was preventable? Could the property owner be held liable for damages?

In this article, we will explore the issue of crimes committed on someone else’s land. We will discuss the landowner’s liability in that situation and what you can do if you’ve been hurt by a criminal. Preventability, we will explain, is the key to holding the landowner responsible.

When the Crime is a Complete Surprise

Imagine a strip mall in an upscale neighborhood. The area has a reputation for safety, and no one expects a violent crime to happen. You are in this neighborhood, shopping at a liquor store. Suddenly, armed hoodlums burst in, waving guns. You are injured during the crime, and the ne’er-do-wells leave with their earnings.

When a crime is completely unexpected and the business owner has no time to react, they may not be responsible for your injuries. You may be able to file a claim with the business’s insurance, but even that could be denied. You could attempt a lawsuit, but it would be difficult to hold the business accountable for the criminal’s deeds. The business and its employees are victims just like you.

Seeking compensation will be an uphill battle in this situation, but it can be done. A skilled lawyer may be able to negotiate a settlement with either the business or its insurance.

In this situation, however, your best bet may be using your own health insurance to cover your expenses.

When a Business Fails at Prevention

Let’s continue with the above scenario. Now that one business was taken by surprise, the surrounding businesses should be on high alert. They should beef up their security, knowing they could be the next target.

To hold a business liable, you must prove that it failed to take preventative measures. This will require the services of a good lawyer. Through investigation, they can investigate what the business did to keep its customers safe. For instance, if your attorney requests work records, they can track how many guards were on duty at what times. If there appears to be no significant change in those hours, the business may not have done enough to strengthen its security.

Criminals can be crafty. Even the best attempts at security can fail. If they manage to hold up another business in the area, liability depends on the situation.

Security Company Liability

Generally, a business owner hires a security company for protection. These days, the entire strip mall is often owned by one entity, and security polices the entire site. Perhaps the owner requested heavier security after a recent crime. However, the security company failed to do its job properly.

Situations like these can be uncovered through investigation. If your attorney discovers that the security company didn’t follow through, you can file a claim against it rather than the business owner.

Landlord Liability

Holding a landlord accountable when a crime has been committed is tricky. In any rental situation, there is always a degree of assumed risk. Perhaps you rent a house in a high-crime area. You took on the risk of living there, and it may not be reasonable to blame your landlord for a break-in.

Remember, however, that reasonable prevention is the key to a landowner’s liability. Let’s say you have an ex-partner who has been making threats against you. This person has a key, and being cautious, you ask your landlord to change the locks. If your landlord fails to follow through on this request, they could be held accountable if your ex commits a crime against you.

Criminal Liability

Of course, the ultimate liability lies on the criminal. They chose to break the law, commit a crime, and injure you in the process. When the criminal’s identity has been uncovered, you can sue them directly for your damages.

This situation, however, has its drawbacks. If you know who committed the crime, it’s probably because they’ve been caught and arrested. Perhaps they’ve already been tried and convicted. In this case, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to receive any money from them. Unless they were already wealthy, which is unlikely, they probably have no money to give. They are making very little money while incarcerated, if any, and getting work will be difficult once they’re released.

Sometimes, making a claim against the landowner or the security company is your only option. Even with the benefit of insurance, you could be left with bills and expenses you cannot manage. You are not responsible for your injury, and you need help recouping money.

Compensation You Can Receive

In court, your attorney’s job is to prove negligence on the part of the landowner. Negligence shows what this owner failed to do. You must, therefore, prove that the landowner or security company failed to provide adequate protection.

You can receive financial compensation to recover any costs directly related to your injury. This includes all medical expenses. If recovery caused you to miss work or lose your job, you could recover damages for your lost income. You could even be compensated for the loss of “potential” income. For instance, your injury could have prevented your promotion, slowed down or ended your ability to earn a degree, or made you unable to accept a higher-paying position.

You could also receive “non-economic” damages. Rather than paying you back for the money you’ve spent, these damages compensate you for the time you spent in pain. The longer and greater your suffering, the more money you may be entitled to.

If you were hurt during the committing of a crime, contact our firm today for a free consultation. We may be able to help. You can reach us online or call us at (817) 591-4222.

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