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When is a business responsible for crimes on its premises?

On Behalf of Scott Marshall Injury Attorneys | March 27, 2023 | Negligent Security

Criminals often target businesses because there may be a constant flow of resources or customers at a specific location. For example, companies frequented by tourists, like hotels, often experience high rates of property crimes in their parking lots. Businesses that sell alcohol often need to navigate an elevated risk of assaults occurring on or near their premises.

Technically, it is the criminals who assault or steal from others who are responsible for their actions, but businesses can be secondarily liable for those criminal incidents under certain circumstances. When could a business or property owner have partial liability for a criminal act?

When the incident was reasonably predictable

Obviously, it would be quite unfair to hold businesses universally accountable for the actions of others, but some crime is predictable depending on the type of business and its location. Looking at crimes that currently occur in the community and criminal incidents at businesses with similar models is a necessary step for entrepreneurs and managers that want to limit the company’s liability.

There are many ways for a business to prevent likely criminal activity. Proper training of employees and possibly the retention of security staff can make a big difference. Security cameras in conspicuous locations can also help deter many opportunistic and impulsive criminals.

In fact, even lighting in outdoor spaces and any interior area accessible by visitors is useful. Outdoor lighting can reduce criminal activity and parking lots and similar spaces by roughly 39%.  Around-the-clock lighting and motion-activated lighting can both make potential criminals nervous about engaging in illegal activity.

When it is obvious a business’s location or operations would attract certain kinds of crime, then a company should take reasonable steps to prevent that kind of criminal activity. Failing to do so might constitute negligence security and leave the business open to a premises liability claim.

Insurance can cover negligent security claims

When a patron or visitor can reasonably claim that a few improved security measures would have prevented the criminal incident they experienced, they could pursue a premises liability claim against the business. Frequently, companies ranging from bars to retail shops carry premises liability insurance that will cover property damage and injury losses that visitors incur at a business.

Even when there isn’t insurance coverage available, it may still be possible to pursue a premises liability lawsuit against a business. Evaluating a criminal incident with a legal professional for signs of negligent security practices could help someone determine whether they have grounds upon which to file a valid premises liability claim.