Can I Make a Claim for a Wrongful Death Resulting from a Criminal Act?

Georgia premises liability law requires property owners to keep their premises safe from known dangerous conditions, which can include third-party criminal acts. A property owner who knows that there is criminal activity on its premises owes a duty to take action to keep visitors, tenants, and other people who are allowed to be on the property safe from harm. Thus, when someone is hurt or killed on a property, the injured party or their family can bring an injury and a wrongful death action against a negligent property owner. These types of claims against property owners are commonly referred to as negligent or inadequate security cases.

You may wonder how a property owner can be expected to control the actions of an unrelated third party. The duty does not require the property to absolutely ensure that all people on the property are safe at all times; the duty requires the property owner to do what it can to protect parties from known dangers. For example, an apartment owner who is aware of assaults on its tenants occurring on the property can take the following steps to protect tenants and visitors:

  • Secure the premises with working fencing and gating;
  • Provide security patrolling for the community;
  • Install lighting in common areas and parking lots;
  • Install working security cameras on the property.

The same duty of care is expected from property owners, such as retail

shopping owners (malls, shopping centers, etc.), restaurants, amusement parks, or any public establishment that is aware of past or present criminal incidents on their properties. Thus, when a person is hurt or even killed on a property, a property owner could be held liable for personal injuries and wrongful death, if the evidence shows that the property owner knew about the potential harm and then failed to take preventative actions to protect patrons, tenants, visitors, or other people allowed on the property. Knowledge can be shown by:

  • History of violent crimes on the property;
  • Prior similar incidents on the property;
  • Failure to properly screen employees, contractors, or any other parties working on the property for past criminal history;
  • Failure to implement policies and procedures to ensure security.

People to whom property owners owe a duty of care include those who are allowed to be on the property, such as customers of a retail establishment, tenants of an apartment complex, or visitors of tenants of an apartment complex. Those who have engaged in criminal behavior themselves and are injured or killed as a result are usually not viable plaintiffs, even if it happens as a result of negligent or inadequate security.

Some types of cases that involve negligent security include civil wrongful death shooting cases, rape cases, and assault cases against property owners who knew about dangerous risks and failed to act appropriately to protect tenants, visitors, and other patrons of the property.

If you or a family member is a victim of a violent crime that occurred as a result of inadequate security on a property, you should immediately report the crime to the police and to the owner of the property. To explore whether you have a case, please call Betty Nguyen Davis today at (404) 647-0722.

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