When you enter a property, the property owner owes you a legal duty of care to protect you from dangerous and unsafe conditions. If you are injured in an attack while you are on the property which could have been prevented by adequate security measures, you may be entitled to financial compensation from the property owner. This article will delve into the types of compensation available and the factors that affect the amount of compensation awarded in a negligent security claim. If you have more questions about negligent security or you think that you may have been a victim of a property owner’s negligence, contact our negligent security lawyers at Morris James online or by calling 302.655.2599.
Elements of Compensation in a Negligent Security Lawsuit
In a negligent security lawsuit, the goal is to compensate the victim for their injuries and losses, and, in rare cases, to punish the negligent property owner. The goal is not to punish the criminal attacker, who will be subject to penalties in a separate criminal case. Compensation awarded to victims (plaintiffs) in a negligent security lawsuit is usually categorized into economic and non-economic damages, though some cases also award punitive damages:
Economic damages: These damages compensate the victim for out-of-pocket costs caused by the incident. They include medical expenses, lost wages, and any future care or treatment you might need due to your injury.
- Medical Expenses: Medical expenses are a common form of economic damages in negligent security lawsuits. These can cover the cost of hospital stays, surgeries, medication, physical therapy, and any other medical treatment you need as a result of the incident. You should keep a copy of your medical bills and medical reports as evidence in your legal claim.
- Lost Wages: If your injury caused you to miss work or has affected your ability to work in the future, you could be compensated for lost wages. This not only includes the income that you lost while you were recovering, but also any future earnings you might lose if your injury prevents you from returning to your previous employment.
- Future Care or Treatment: Sometimes, the effects of an injury can linger, requiring ongoing care or treatment. If this is the case, your compensation should cover these future costs. This could include physical therapy or rehabilitation, ongoing medication, or any other treatment you will need to manage your injury in the long term. Calculating the financial value of future treatment is complicated because it requires both a detailed medical prognosis and a financial estimate of the future value of medical care. This requires the assistance of a knowledgeable personal injury attorney.
Non-Economic Damages: Unlike economic damages, these damages are not tied to specific costs. Instead, they are intended to compensate you for intangible losses that are difficult to quantify, such as your pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life:
- Pain and Suffering: Pain and suffering is a legal term for the physical pain and emotional distress a victim endures as a result of their injury. It is important to note that this not only includes a victim’s immediate discomfort, but also the long-term physical pain and emotional trauma that can persist long after the incident. The severity of the pain, the nature of the injury, and the duration of the suffering will affect the amount that is awarded for pain and suffering. It can be difficult to put a financial value on these intangible aspects, and ultimately it will depend on how much a jury thinks your pain and suffering is worth. A seasoned negligent security attorney who understands what a jury values when assessing a claim is invaluable in this situation.
- Loss of Consortium: Loss of consortium is a non-economic damage that compensates for the loss of companionship, affection, sexual relations, or spousal services that a spouse or family member experiences as a result of the victim’s injury. In a negligent security lawsuit, if the injury is so severe that it interferes with the victim's relationship with their spouse or family, the victim and the family members may be able to claim damages for loss of consortium. The extent of these damages is usually determined by the disruption to the relationship, the lifespan of the injured party, and the strength of the marital relationship prior to the incident.
Punitive Damages: These damages are not awarded to the victim in every negligent security lawsuit. They are only awarded by a court when a property owner has been grossly negligent or intentionally reckless about their duty of care to visitors to their property. In such cases, it is very difficult to estimate an amount of punitive damages.
Factors Affecting Compensation
Several factors can influence the amount of compensation a victim or their surviving family members may receive in a negligent security lawsuit. Your attorney should thoroughly investigate your claim to ensure that all of the relevant factors in your case are properly evaluated and presented. Issues a jury will consider include:
- Severity of Injury: The severity of your injury will directly impact the amount of compensation. The more severe the injury, the more likely it is that you will receive a larger amount of compensation. Physical and emotional damage will both be considered. If the victim is killed in the attack, a wrongful death claim can be pursued by the surviving family members.
- Economic Impact: Lost wages and benefits (past and future), medical bills, home and vehicle modifications, property damage, and other economic losses resulting from your injury are taken into consideration when determining compensation. It is important to keep copies of all receipts, invoices, payslips, medical bills, and other relevant documentation as evidence in your case.
- Impact on Quality of Life: If your injury has significantly affected your ability to enjoy life or has caused permanent disability or disfigurement, this will have a substantial impact on your compensation. The impact on surviving family members will be considered in a wrongful death case arising from negligent security.
- Degree of Negligence: The level of negligence on the part of the property owner can play a role in determining compensation. If their negligence is egregious, it could lead to punitive damages and therefore higher compensation.
- Legal Representation: It is well-known that unrepresented victims obtain lower compensation and settlement awards than victims who have legal representation. Having a reliable and skilled lawyer to advise you and negotiate on your behalf can make a significant difference to the amount of compensation that you receive.
How much compensation can I expect to receive in a negligent security lawsuit?
No lawyer can tell you how much you will receive in compensation in a negligent security lawsuit. However, an experienced negligent security lawyer can tell you the levels of compensation that they have achieved for previous clients and the factors in your case that might increase or decrease your compensation award.
It is also worth noting that many negligent security lawsuits never make it to court, instead ending in an agreed settlement between the parties. This does not change the factors that are relevant in estimating the value of your claim because a settlement amount is generally determined by how much the parties think a jury could award them at trial.
Property owners must keep their property reasonably safe for visitors. This may require hiring security guards, repairing broken locks, investing in security cameras, or other measures. Some property and business owners are reluctant to invest their time and money in security, but if they do not, they are risking the physical, emotional, and financial wellbeing of their visitors and they will be held liable. If you have been injured in a criminal attack that could have been prevented by adequate security, you are entitled to financial compensation for your injuries. Consult with a personal injury attorney who can guide you through the complexities of your case and advocate for your best interests.
At Morris James, our attorneys have been standing up for victims since we opened our doors in 1932. If you have been harmed by negligent security or you have questions about this topic, you can learn more in our Negligent Security FAQs, or you can contact us online or by calling 302.655.2599.