No one can predict when or where a crime will occur. However, criminals generally seek easy targets, such as locations without security cameras, security guards, gates, street lights, or other safety features that discourage criminal activity. When a property owner neglects to institute these necessary security measures, individuals who visit the property might become more vulnerable to violent crimes.

In its decision on the 1998 case of Timberwalk Apartments, Partners, Inc. v. Cain, the Texas Supreme Court set the standard for when property owners bear civil liability for criminal acts committed on their land. While this decision broadly states that no one has any duty under state law to protect someone from a third party’s criminal act, there are exceptions to the rule. For example, if property owners know that their guests may be at risk of harm from illegal activity on their land, they could be responsible for ensuing injuries.

While Houston negligent security lawsuits have similarities to standard premises liability claims, there are many differences. Having help from a seasoned property liability lawyer can make a considerable difference in establishing valid grounds to file these claims and maximizing the compensation you can receive through an ensuing settlement or favorable court verdict.

When to File a Negligent Security Claim

In a premises liability case, injured individuals are allowed to seek civil redress against a property owner for crimes and violent acts of third parties when it is negligent regarding security. Common situations that result in negligent security claims include:

  • Failure to install or monitor security cameras
  • Failure to warn visitors about any known risks or dangers
  • Failure to respond to a security alert or emergency call
  • Failure to provide adequately trained security personnel or patrol
  • Failure to fix broken physical barriers, such as gates, locks, fences, or doors
  • Failure to maintain an establishment’s appearance
  • Failure to maintain adequate lighting in dark areas

In many cases, foreseeability is a vital element in negligent security cases. This is generally determined based on whether or not there were any prior crimes that shared similarities in the same location that the owner or possessor knew or should have known about. For example, if there were several prior rapes in a mall parking lot before the injuries in another case occurred, it is reasonable to expect that the most recent case was foreseeable. Common locations where inadequate security can occur include parking lots, apartment buildings, restaurants, and hotels.

For a premises liability case to be successful, the plaintiff must show that a property owner or occupier failed to take the reasonable steps necessary to prevent the crime that resulted in the injuries suffered.

When Are Landowners Liable for Lack of Security?

The concept of “foreseeability” is the primary factor that must be considered when determining if a person hurt by a criminal act can file a negligent security claim against a property owner in Houston.  Legal representatives can establish foreseeability in several ways, depending on the circumstances. For example, a lawyer may use police data showing increased criminal activity in the area where the incident happened as evidence of foreseeability. Additionally, a legal team member may collect evidence that proves a similar act occurred on the property previously.

The “ordinary care” a property owner must demonstrate in ensuring visitors are protected from “foreseeable” crime can vary. For instance, some property owners may fulfill their obligation to visitors by putting a fence around their land to deter trespassers. However, others—particularly landlords managing residential properties—may have a much greater duty to ensure public areas are well-lit at night, install security cameras, and possibly even hire security guards.

Recoverable Damages in Negligent Security Claims

A successful lawsuit or settlement demand built around a property owner’s failure to provide adequate security can seek restitution for the same losses a typical premises liability claim could, including:

  • Medical expenses
  • Lost income or diminished earning capacity
  • Personal property loss or damage
  • Psychological trauma
  • Physical pain from injuries
  • Loss of enjoyment of life

It is worth noting that if police can identify the perpetrator of a criminal act in Houston, the individual could be held civilly liable for these damages separately from any criminal prosecution they may face over their actions. In some cases, courts may impose punitive damages against an alleged defendant, as an attorney experienced with negligent security cases could explain.

Speak with a Houston Attorney About Negligent Security Lawsuits

In addition to regularly inspecting their property to ensure no unreasonably hazardous conditions are posing any threat to visitors, landowners in Texas also have an obligation under certain circumstances to protect visitors from hazards that originate outside their property. Therefore, if a landowner does not take the proper steps to prevent criminal activity from occurring on their land, they may bear civil liability for anyone hurt by illegal activity on their property.

A seasoned lawyer could give you the best chance of succeeding with a Houston negligent security lawsuit. Learn more by calling our team of attorneys at Roberts Markland LLP today.