If you or a loved one were injured in a stabbing, your family may be eligible to secure financial compensation. Property owners are required to provide tenants and guests with adequate security, but can be held accountable for leaving people vulnerable to crime.
- Stabbing-related injuries
- Lost wages and medical expenses
- Wrongful death
Filing a civil lawsuit for damages can help your family on the road to recovery. To learn more about your legal options, contact our experienced attorneys today for a free consultation.
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Were you or a loved one injured or killed in a stabbing?
Holding A Negligent Property Owner Accountable
No matter where you live, every property owner has a basic responsibility to protect guests, visitors and residents from violent crime. No business, apartment complex or private residence can escape this form of liability, which allows people who are injured due to negligent security to secure compensation by filing a private lawsuit.
If a property owner's negligence allowed a stabbing to occur, the crime's direct victims or, in some cases, their family may be eligible to pursue financial compensation, including monetary damages for medical expenses, long-term psychological counseling, lost wages, physical pain and emotional suffering.
How To Prove Negligent Security
To win a case, though, you'll have to prove that a property owner, like an apartment complex owner, failed to provide you or your loved one with adequate security. Then, you'll have to show that the property owner's failure (or negligence) contributed to the crime.
An Example Of Negligent Security
Here's an example. Despite being made aware of the problem weeks ago, the owner of an apartment building failed to fix a broken door lock to one of the residents' apartments. One night, an assailant breaks into the apartment and stabs the resident, causing severe personal injuries.
Obviously, this case satisfies the two conditions we discussed earlier. First, the property owner failed to secure the property adequately by leaving a broken door lock unfixed. That's negligence. The second element is satisfied because, with a working door lock, there would have been no way (or it would have been substantially more difficult) for the assailant to gain access to the victim's apartment.
In other words, if the property owner had fulfilled his duty, it's likely that the crime would have been prevented. In the legal community, we would say that the property owner's negligence was the proximate cause of the victim's injuries.
"Foreseeable" Criminal Acts
In the vast majority of jurisdictions, courts agree that property owners can only be held accountable for "foreseeable" crimes. You can't guard against types of activity that you have no reason to see coming. Without clear and convincing evidence of a serious security failure, most property owners can't be held liable for injuries sustained in a mass shooting. Mass shootings are rare and, in the eyes of the law, totally outside the bounds of normal daily life. They're not "foreseeable" in the language of the legal community.
Patterns Of Similar Criminal Activity
A stabbing is a different matter entirely. Stabbings are comparatively common, but you'll still need to demonstrate the crime's "foreseeability" in court.
To do that, attorneys usually rely on a variety of evidence. Police reports from the local precinct could show that the apartment complex or convenience store where the stabbing took place is located in a high-crime neighborhood. Testimony from local residents who have also been victimized by crime could help to demonstrate that it's a dangerous area.
By amassing evidence like this, an attorney can start to build an argument that the property owner knew, or should have known, that stabbings were a real possibility on the premises. The next step is to show that the property owner failed to protect the stabbing's victim from the crime in which they were injured.
Stabbings In The Criminal Law
In criminal law, stabbings usually fall under the heading of battery, a category of crime that includes all instances in which one person intentionally touches another person in a harmful or offensive manner without consent.
Assault, a closely-related concept, occurs when one person acts in a threatening manner that would leave a reasonable person in fear of imminent harm.
In many cases, these two charges come as a package deal, which is why you might be more familiar with the term "assault and battery." In theory, however, assault doesn't require any physical contact between the perpetrator and victim; credible verbal threats are sufficient to satisfy the crime.
The concepts of assault and battery are mirrored in America's civil law, where both offenses are considered intentional torts. If you filed a lawsuit against the person who stabbed you, you would accuse them of committing the intentional tort of battery, and likely assault as well, if you feared for your personal safety prior to the attack. At trial, you would be required to prove that the perpetrator's actions were taken on purpose.
Proving The Defendant's Intent
In civil lawsuits, there are two basic ways to prove intent, both of which hinge on the subjective mental state held by the defendant at the time of the attack:
- willfulness - the defendant purposefully (deliberately or willfully) harmed the plaintiff, causing harmful or offensive contact with a conscious desire to do so
- knowledge of harm - the defendant understood that their actions were "substantially certain" to cause harm, but may not have specifically intended to harm the plaintiff
Filing a lawsuit against a property owner is another story.
Elements Of Negligence
File suit against the property's owner and, in all but the rarest cases, you'd be accusing them of negligence, a careless or reckless disregard for the safety of others. Claims of negligence don't require a finding of intent. Instead, you'll have to prove five elements:
- the property owner owed you a duty (like the duty to provide adequate security)
- the property owner violated that duty (by failing to provide adequate security)
- a reasonable property owner under similar circumstances would have understood that the violation created an unreasonable risk of harm (foreseeability)
- the property owner's violation caused the crime to occur
- you or your loved one suffered actual damages due to the property owner's violation
These five elements are critical to every negligent security lawsuit, whether the stabbing resulted in severe personal injuries or the death of a loved one.