Negligent Security and Civil Law

Imagine being injured due to inadequate security measures on someone else’s property—perhaps a robbery, an assault, or worse. In such cases, the injured party seeks to hold the property owner or tenant accountable. But what duties do landowners have, and how can they be held liable? This failure to uphold their duty of care can lead to what’s known as negligent security. 

Whether we’re at a shopping mall, parking lot, college campus, or even our own apartment complex, we expect a reasonable level of security. But what happens when that security falls short? Negligent security is a legal concept that addresses this very issue. It’s a critical aspect of premises liability law, specifically dealing with civil redress for crimes and violent acts.

What Constitutes Negligent Security?

Negligent security falls within the scope of premises liability law, which places responsibility on property owners for injuries and financial losses resulting from negligence. Property owners are required to take reasonable precautions to maintain a safe environment for all individuals accessing their premises, whether customers, visitors, or residents.

Negligent security issues can arise in both residential and commercial settings, highlighting the importance of a property owner’s duty to provide adequate security measures.

What Constitutes Negligent Security?

Common Locations Where Negligent Security Can Be Observed

While violent crimes can occur in various settings, negligent security cases tend to arise more frequently in specific locations. Here are several examples:

  • Amusement Parks
  • Apartment Buildings
  • Bars and Nightclubs
  • Government Facilities
  • Grocery Stores
  • Hospitals and Healthcare Facilities
  • Hotels and Motels
  • Office Buildings
  • Parking Lots and Garages
  • Public Transportation Hubs
  • Schools and Educational Institutions
  • Shopping Centers and Malls
  • Sports Stadiums and Event Venues

Is Negligent Security Applicable to Public or Private Property?

Property owners, whether public entities like government entities or private individuals or companies have a legal obligation to provide a reasonably safe environment for those who enter their premises. This duty of care includes implementing adequate security measures to prevent foreseeable criminal acts or incidents that could harm visitors or customers.

Whether the property is public or private, victims of crimes resulting from negligent security may seek compensation for their injuries, medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering by filing a lawsuit against the responsible party. Consulting with a knowledgeable attorney who specializes in negligent security cases can help victims understand their legal rights and options for pursuing justice and compensation.

Is Negligent Security Applicable to Public or Private Property?

Does Negligent Security Apply in All States?

Negligent security laws apply in all states, but there are significant variations in laws from state to state. Negligent security lawsuits are based on premises liability tort law, and the main elements required to prove a claim generally remain consistent across all states. Legal rights in a particular situation may be contingent upon factors outlined in the state’s civil law.

What Are Statutes of Limitations, and How Do They Limit the Time for Filing a Lawsuit?

The timelines and deadlines for filing negligent security claims can vary depending on the state. Before proceeding with legal action, make sure to understand the laws that are applicable in your state. A negligent security attorney can provide information about your legal rights.

Elements of Negligent Security Claims

To establish a successful negligent security claim, several elements must be proven:

  • Breach: The plaintiff must show that the defendant breached their duty of care by failing to implement or maintain adequate security measures. [1]

  • Causation: The plaintiff must establish a causal link between the defendant’s breach of duty and the resulting injuries or losses suffered.

  • Duty of Care: The plaintiff must demonstrate that the property owner or manager owed a duty of care to provide reasonable security measures.
  • Injury or Harm: The plaintiff must demonstrate that they suffered actual harm or injuries as a result of the security negligence.
Elements of Negligent Security Claims

Common Examples of Negligent Security Cases

The examples provided here vary based on the specific details of each situation. However, there are certain warning signs you should be mindful of. The following are some typical security scenarios that could lead to negligent security claims:

  • Broken or Inadequate Security Equipment: This includes malfunctioning surveillance cameras, broken locks, or faulty alarm systems that fail to deter or alert authorities to criminal activity

  • Failure to Respond to Known Risks: Ignoring previous incidents of criminal activity or failing to implement preventive measures after receiving warnings or reports of potential threats

  • Failure to Warn: Property owners or business owners have a duty to warn visitors about known hazards or risks on the premises, such as high-crime areas or recent security breaches

  • Inadequate Screening of Employees or Tenants: If property owners do not conduct background checks on employees or tenants, it can increase the risk of criminal behavior within the premises

  • Insufficient Lighting: If a property lacks proper lighting in parking lots, stairwells, or other areas, it can create opportunities for criminal activity such as assaults, robberies, or vandalism

  • Inadequate Training: Property owners or security personnel may be held liable if they fail to provide adequate training on security protocols or emergency procedures

  • Lack of Security Personnel: Failure to employ security guards or staff to monitor and patrol the premises can leave visitors vulnerable to criminal acts

  • Neglecting Maintenance of the Property: Poorly maintained premises, such as broken fences, overgrown foliage, or damaged windows, can provide opportunities for criminals to access the property undetected

  • Neglecting Safety Policies and Procedures: Not enforcing safety protocols such as visitor registration, access control, or emergency response plans can contribute to security breaches

  • Violations of Building Codes or Regulations: Failure to comply with building codes or safety regulations related to security features, such as fire exits or emergency lighting, can result in legal liability if it contributes to harm or injury

Common Examples of Negligent Security Cases

Proving Negligent Security

To build a strong case of negligent security, gather the evidence. This may include:

  • Incident reports and police records detailing prior criminal activities on the property
  • Surveillance footage, if available, that can help establish the property owner‘s knowledge of potential risks
  • Expert testimony from security professionals who can assess and analyze the adequacy of the security measures in place
  • Witness statements from individuals who can corroborate the property owner‘s failure to address security concerns
  • Documentation of the plaintiff’s injuries, medical bills, and other relevant financial losses

Typical Victims of Negligent Security

Common victims of negligent security encompass a broad spectrum of individuals who have suffered harm due to inadequate safety measures on a property. These victims may include:

  • Customers and Patrons: People visiting commercial establishments such as malls, restaurants, bars, hotels, or retail stores may become victims of crimes like assault, robbery, or theft if the property lacks proper security measures.

  • Patients and Visitors at Healthcare Facilities: Patients receiving medical treatment or visitors at hospitals, clinics, or healthcare facilities may encounter safety concerns if these institutions do not maintain adequate security protocols to prevent incidents such as theft, assault, or unauthorized access to sensitive areas.

  • Students: Students attending schools, colleges, or universities may be vulnerable to crimes like harassment, assault, or theft if educational institutions do not provide adequate security on campus.

Typical Victims of Negligent Security

What Steps Can Property Owners Take to Reduce the Risk of Negligent Security Incidents?

Customers should expect a reasonable level of safety when visiting different establishments like shops, restaurants, bars, or other public or private properties. It is up to the property owner to take the necessary steps to make their property safe.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to security across different types of businesses or properties. What may constitute essential security for a residential property, for instance, might not be suitable for government facilities. Nonetheless, property owners and entities must ensure the implementation of proper security measures to prevent negligence and potential liability. This proactive approach involves:

  • Implementation of Security Protocols
  • Installing Security Cameras
  • Regular Risk Assessments
  • Training and Oversight
  • Warning Visitors of Dangers

What is the Statute of Limitations for Negligent Security Cases?

In the United States, negligent security cases typically fall under premises liability laws, which vary from state to state. Every state has its own laws regarding the Statute of Limitations for different types of lawsuits.

Be aware of the Statute of Limitations when considering legal action. Failing to file a lawsuit within the specified Statute of Limitations can result in the dismissal of your case, thereby barring you from seeking compensation for your injuries and losses.

Can I Seek Additional Claims Alongside Negligent Security to Obtain Compensation?

The ability to pursue additional claims besides negligent security will vary based on the individual circumstances of your case. In certain situations, it may be possible to pursue legal action for breach of contract, breach of trust, or negligent security. A negligent security lawyer provides guidance on potential claims to consider when pursuing justice in a negligent security case.

Successful proof of your claim may result in the recovery of various types of compensation, including economic and non-economic damages.

Can I Seek Additional Claims Alongside Negligent Security to Obtain Compensation?

If you need legal assistance with filing a negligent security claim, Contact Goldberg & Loren today for a free consultation.


[1] Johnson, J. (2022, September 20). What Is Breach of Duty? Legal Definition & Examples. Forbes Advisor.

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