Gas station owners have a duty to provide customers and employees with reasonable security. Property owners who fail to do so can be held accountable in a civil premises liability lawsuit.
- Armed Robbery
- Shootings & Homicide
- Other Crime-Related Injuries
Some crime victims and families may be able to sue the owner of a gas station, rather than the criminal offender. To find more information about pursuing a lawsuit, contact our experienced civil lawyers now.
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Gas stations are often targeted by criminals. Every year, thousands of Americans suffer severe personal injuries, and lose valuable property, in robberies, assaults and shootings at the nation's 168,000 gas stations, according to the Association for Convenience and Fuel Retailing.
Can Victims Sue The Gas Station For A Violent Crime?
Usually open late into the night (if not 24-hours-a-day), gas stations are frequently understaffed and minimally-protected, leaving unsuspecting customers with few options for defense against violent offenders.
Violent crime leaves hundreds of thousands of survivors facing a long road to recovery. Our experienced attorneys have spoken to numerous crime victims who are struggling to deal with costly medical treatments and lost time at work, to say nothing of physical pain and emotional trauma.
We've also consulted hundreds of grieving families who lost their loved ones to crime and are now trying to pick up the pieces. Many of the people we speak to are looking to understand more about their legal options. Unfortunately, crime victim compensation programs only provide a limited amount of compensation.
Pursuing Justice Through The Civil Court System
In the vast majority of states, victims and families have two options for legal recourse in the wake of a violent crime. One option is to sue the criminal offender and demand compensation for your medical expenses, lost wages and pain and suffering. In the tragic event of a loved one's death, surviving family members may be able to sue for funeral and burial expenses, along with lost financial support and, in some states, the pain and suffering experienced by the murder victim prior to their passing.
But pursuing a criminal offender in court can be difficult. It may also be counter-productive. It's simply a fact that few offenders have the personal assets or income to warrant filing a suit for financial compensation. And we're assuming, from the outset, that the offender has been located and will comply with court orders.
Third-Party Legal Claims
It's actually more common for victims and families to file a third-party negligent security lawsuit. These claims aren't filed against criminal offenders, but against businesses or residential property owners who failed to provide visitors with adequate security. And yes, employees of a gas station who are injured during the commission of a violent crime can also sue the business' owner, if evidence of negligence exists.
Negligent Security Laws
Under state law, owners of commercial or residential property owe customers, employees, residents and other lawful guests an obligation to equip their properties with reasonable security precautions. Property owners who fail to provide appropriate security, on the other hand, can be held accountable in court for their negligence when something goes wrong.
This domain of civil law, known as "premises liability," covers nearly every building, sidewalk and parking lot in America. That includes gas stations, which also happen to be magnets for violent crime, especially armed robberies.
Evidence Of Gas Station Negligence
To win one of these lawsuits, a crime victim (or their surviving family members) will have to prove that the gas station violated its obligation to offer lawful guests a measure of protection against violent offenders.
The specific safety measures that should be considered "appropriate" change from case-to-case. Gas stations in high-crime areas, for example, are held to a higher standard. The same is true for gas stations with a recent history of crime, especially when the type of crimes occurring in the past are similar to the one cited in your lawsuit.
Prior Crimes & Notice
Courts will take all of these variables into account before assigning any level of liability to a gas station's owner. The point of this analysis is to figure out whether or not the crime was "foreseeable" to the owner.
Courts generally hold that gas station owners can only be held accountable for allowing "foreseeable" crimes to occur. Previous crimes at the same gas station, or a history of similar crime in the neighborhood, put gas station owners on notice. In other words, a history of prior crime is a little warning sign that tells a property owner: "this kind of thing might happen again."
And once a property owner has received (or should have received) that message, they should do something about it, beefing up their security, fixing broken lights or installing a new security camera. The possibility of legal liability enters the equation when a gas station owner has received notice, but fails to do anything about it.
Common Security Measures
Gas station owners have numerous security options at their disposal to protect customers and employees:
- bright lighting, both inside the gas station's convenience store and outside to illuminate the pumps
- working security camera system (and signs to notify potential criminal offenders of the camera system)
- video surveillance outside illuminating each gas aisle, along with the entire parking lot
- fencing to surround the parking lot and prevent an offender's escape
- cash control policies that limit the amount of money in the gas station's register
Owners can even modify the interior layout of their gas station convenience store to help reduce the chances of criminal activity. Employees at the cashier should be given an unimpeded view of their surroundings, extending across the entire store. Cameras and well-placed mirrors can help increase visibility into corners and bathroom hallways.
Employee training can also play a role in either exacerbating or minimizing the harm caused by a crime. All gas station employees should be trained to respond appropriately in the event of an attempted crime. While most large gas station chains have specific policies in place to mitigate crime, smaller privately-owned stations usually lack the resources to put a rigorous plan in place.
Learn More About Filing A Lawsuit
Were you or a loved one harmed during a crime at a gas station? You may be entitled to significant financial compensation.
To learn more about your rights and legal options, contact our experienced negligent security attorneys today for a free consultation. We may be able to help. Our lawyers only offer their services on a contingency-fee basis; you pay nothing until we secure compensation in your case. For more information, call or complete our online contact form now.