Last Update: 01/25/16
Most serious crime victims on Florida college campuses are injured during the commission of a rape or other sex crime or during the commission of an assault and battery. These campus crime victims may be residents in campus dorms, students or faculty at the university or college, or someone working or visiting and in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Regardless of whether the crime victim is a student, a teacher, a professor, member of the school staff, or a visitor, under Florida law (specifically Florida premises liability negligent security law), the college or university will be responsible for damages to that victim of crime if evidence reveals that the attack was proximately caused by the college or university failing to exercise reasonable care in protecting people from harm by a third party (criminal).
It is possible that the person who committed the crime (another student, a stranger, etc.) can be held liable as well as the college or university for the damages and hurt sustained by the victim of that crime.
When is a Florida college or Florida university legally liable to a victim of crime on its campus?
As a general rule, Florida statutes and Florida courts will hold the school itself legally responsible for the harm that has befallen the crime victim if there was not adequate security in the area and there was not reasonable efforts to keep people protected from known risks or dangers that seem to be reasonably expected in the area.
For instance, if a certain area has had a number of assault crime reports, then it is to be expected that security is needed in that area until the criminal is caught. If a dorm parking lot is in complete darkness without overhead lighting, then it is reasonable to hold the school responsible for adequate lighting whenever needed for that lot to protect students and visitors parking there, walking through the lot, locking bicycles near the lot, etc.
Public school or private school: does it matter? No.
In Florida, some governmental entities enjoy legal barriers to being sued for damages as a protection of taxpayer dollars. However, Florida schools (colleges and universities) are not protected by this barrier (called “sovereign immunity” or “tort immunity”).
In Florida, all colleges and universities can be held monetarily liable for negligent security of their college campuses. And that’s important because there are lots of crime victims being hurt on campuses each year in this country.
In 2010, the federal government released a study revealing there has been a huge increase in the amount of campus violence over the past two decades. This investigation confirmed that many criminal predators find college campuses and university environments to be excellent targets for their crimes: rapists, particularly, are drawn to dorms and their nearby areas (parking lots, etc.), for example.
To read the federal campus violence study online, go here.
The Jeanne Clery Act – Florida Schools Must Publish Crime Reports
A federal law, the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act was passed after student J Clerk was passed by Congress after a Lehigh University student was raped and murdered in her college dorm; Jeanne Clery’s death caused her parents to mount a national campaign against college crime going unreported and ignored in this country.
The Clery Act applies to any Florida college or university that gets federal financial aid under Title IV, and requires that these schools keep track of crime on their campuses (as defined by the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Handbook) and to publish their crime reports so the public can read them.
What Should You Do Now?
A good piece of advice if you have been harmed as a crime victim, is to at least speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer before you file a claim to learn about some of the issues that can arise with these claims, including the type of evidence needed to prove a claim and the type and amount of damages you can recover. Most personal injury lawyers, like Alan Sackrin, will offer a free initial consultation (over the phone or in person) to answer your questions.
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- Crime Victims’ Compensation in Florida: Money Provided for Florida Victims of Crime Who Are Injured and Hurt During Crime
Do you have questions or comments? Then please feel free to send Alan an email or call him now at (954) 458-8655.