Violent crimes are common at convenience stores across the country. Thousands of severe injuries and tragic deaths could be prevented through better security measures.
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Some crime survivors and families may be entitled to significant financial compensation. Our experienced victim advocates can help. To learn more about your legal rights, contact our lawyers now for a free consultation.
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Convenience stores are frequent targets for criminal activity. Every year, thousands of robberies, many involving deadly weapons, are carried out in convenience stores across the country. Tens of thousands of store customers and employees are assaulted, usually under totally random circumstances. And hundreds die in senseless murders.
Filing Suit Against A Convenience Store For Violent Crime
Violent crime is a problem throughout the United States, leaving victims facing severe injuries or forcing families to grieve the tragic loss of a loved one. America's strong history of premises liability law recognizes that we all have a role to play in preventing crime. That includes the owners of commercial and residential property.
A Store Owner's Duty To Customers & Employees
According to 2015 and 2016 statistics from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, convenience stores across the country remain dangerous for both unsuspecting customers and workers. Convenience stores are required by a variety of state laws to put in place adequate protections for customers and employees, including measures designed to prevent violent crime.
The fact is that convenience stores can dissuade would-be criminal offenders from hurting other people by instituting a few simple safety measures. Installing security cameras and using drop safes are just two common examples of ways that stores can discourage robberies and violent assaults on their premises.
What Is Premises Liability Law?
It wouldn't be too far of a stretch to say that any convenience store, given the serious crime problem, would have committed an act of negligence by failing to institute these simple customer protections. That's also what most state laws say.
When a convenience store fails to adequately protect its employees or customers, the business can be held liable in a court of law by crime victims.
Taking Legal Action
A long-standing tradition in American law holds that residential and commercial property owners can, in some cases, be held accountable for injuries that occur on their property.
This area of law, known as premises liability law, is based on the concept of negligence, a reckless disregard for the safety of others. Property owners who are found to have acted negligently can be ordered to pay financial compensation to injury victims.
Inadequate Security Lawsuits
A sub-set of premises liability lawsuits involve negligent security, when a commercial property owner fails to implement the appropriate security measures that could protect its customers and workers from harm. Cases involving injuries caused by violent crime at convenience stores usually fall into this category.
As you might have imagined, we're not talking about criminal law, even though much of this topic revolves around the commission of violent crimes. Instead, we're focusing on civil law, the legal system in which private individuals demand financial compensation from other private individuals.
Third-Party Civil Lawsuits
While possible, it's usually difficult for crime victims to sue criminal offenders for compensation, since many offenders have few assets and little income. Even more problematic is when the offender has yet to be located.
Through a third-party premises liability lawsuit, however, victims and their families can secure compensation by suing someone, like a convenience store owner, whose negligence allowed the crime to occur.
Variations In State Law
Negligent security law varies by state, so every situation will be different.
Florida law, for example, outlines specific security requirements for convenience stores, including security camera systems, lighted parking lots and "a conspicuous notice at the entrance which states that the cash register contains $50 or less."
When a convenience store in Florida follows this law, courts in the State will presume that it provided customers and employees with adequate security protection, even in the event of horrendous crimes. That means suing the store for damages becomes very difficult, though not strictly impossible. Stores in Florida that violate the law, on the other hand, can still be accountable in a civil lawsuit.
Customers Deserve Adequate & Reasonable Security
In most states, survivors of crime will have to prove that they were lawful visitors to the convenience store, usually either customers looking to buy something or employees working at the store. It's common for states to prevent people who were injured while trespassing on a property to then sue the property owner for their injuries.
Next, a plaintiff will need to show that the convenience store owed them a duty to offer reasonable security. This duty is usually presumed, since convenience stores are open for business and need visitors to survive. After proving that a duty existed, the plaintiff will have to demonstrate that the store owner violated their duty, failing to put some security measure in place that could have prevented the crime from occurring.
Financial Damages & Compensation
The final step is to show that the crime caused actual damages, forms of harm that can be compensated through some financial award. Survivors of crime often struggle to recover from severe physical injuries, as well as emotional trauma that can be just as serious. Many victims also lose out on weeks or months of work.
In a civil lawsuit, all of these damages, and more, can be claimed as possible compensation. Many survivors win compensation to cover their medical expenses and lost wages, along with counseling costs. Most successful plaintiffs also secure damages related to pain and suffering, intended to compensate them for the experience of physical pain and emotional trauma.
Wrongful Death Claims
As we've already noted, thousands of innocent victims are killed in convenience stores every year.
In some cases, families who have lost their loved ones to a violent crime may be eligible to secure compensation from the store by filing a wrongful death lawsuit.
Surviving family members could be able to recover damages for funeral and burial expenses, along with any medical services provided to their loved one before their death.
Was The Crime Foreseeable?
An additional requirement for most negligent security cases involves foreseeability.
Most state laws recognize that crime is likely to occur in some places more than others. As a result, what is considered a reasonable and adequate security precaution will change. Convenience stores in high-crime neighborhoods, for example, should have stronger protections for customers and employees than businesses in places where crime almost never happens.
Convenience Store History Of Crime
The point, in terms of a lawsuit, is that most victims of crime will need to prove that the criminal act by which they were injured was reasonably foreseeable to the convenience store owner. So someone who was hurt during a robbery will have to show that the store's owner should have known another robbery could have occurred on their property, but failed to do anything about it.
Courts usually take a specific view on this topic. We're not looking for a general history of criminal activity at a particular location, but a definite pattern of similar crimes.
Recent Patterns Of Similar Crimes
If four shootings occurred at the same convenience store within the last few years, the fourth shooting would probably be considered foreseeable. But if three rape attempts had preceded the shooting, the shooting might not be foreseeable, since rape and homicide are very different crimes. As you might expect, police reports become extremely important in developing a convenience store's history of crime for the purpose of evidence.
Learn More In A Free Consultation
Were you or a loved one injured during a violent crime at a convenience store? You may be able to secure significant compensation in a negligent security lawsuit. Our experienced victims' attorneys can help. To learn more about your legal options, contact our lawyers today for a free consultation.