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Breaking Down a Negligent Security Claim in Washington


Negligent security is more than a lack of security. Instead, negligent security is basically a lack of care. This legal concept is based on the story of the Good Samaritan. According to this story, which for better or worse is ingrained in Western law, the Good Samaritan went out of his way to help an injured traveler on a lonely road. Likewise, landowners must go out of their way to protect their guests. Just how far landowners must go out of their way usually depends on their relationship with the negligent security victim. More on that below.

Negligent security-related injuries, such as physical assaults and sexual assaults, usually cause serious injuries that may be permanent. These injuries include physical and emotional injuries. A Seattle premises liability lawyer works hard to ensure that these victims receive maximum compensation for their serious injuries. This compensation usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.

Duty of Care

Before we break down the duty of care in a negligent security case, we should address a burning question. Many people don’t understand why a landowner is responsible for someone else’s criminal acts.

Strictly speaking, the landlord isn’t responsible for such acts. Rather, the landlord is responsible for the broken gate, burned-out light, or other inadequate security which gives an individual a chance to commit an illegal act.

Furthermore, criminal courts normally don’t compensate crime victims. A Seattle personal injury must go to civil court to do that. The amount of compensation, or rather the amount of responsibility, usually depends on the relationship between the owner and victim:

  • Invitee: This Legalese word simply means a person who has any permission to be on the land and whose presence benefits the owner in some way. The owner has a duty of reasonable care in these situations. Owners must address negligent security hazards, not just warn people about them.
  • Licensee: A warning is sufficient if the victim was a licensee. A guest of an apartment tenant is a licensee. Although the person has permission to be on the land (the owner usually doesn’t care), the licensee doesn’t benefit the owner.
  • Trespasser: These individuals don’t have permission to be on the land and don’t benefit the owner. No permission and no benefit usually means no duty. Some legal loopholes, like the attractive nuisance rule, protect some child trespassers in some situations.

Things get muddy if the victim’s status changes. Invitees become trespassers if they overstay their leases and licensees become trespassers if they sell drugs on the premises.

Knowledge of Hazard

It stands to reason that owners must only address hazards if they know about them. Evidence on this point could be direct or circumstantial.

Direct evidence of actual knowledge usually includes prior complaints about a burned-out light or other negligent security hazard. Security surveys and other such evidence are admissible as well.

Courts use the time-notice rule to evaluate circumstantial evidence of constructive knowledge (should have known). If an apartment shooting occurs at Complex A, if Complex B is in the neighborhood, the clock is ticking for Complex B’s owner to beef up security.

On a related note, owners are only responsible for negligent security-related injury if that injury was foreseeable (possible). The nature of the business is an important foreseeability factor. Convenience stores need tighter security than bridal shops.

Count on a Tough-Minded King County Lawyer

Property owners must adequately protect invited guests. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Seattle, contact the Emerald Law Group. Attorneys can connect victims with therapists, even if they have no money or insurance.


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