Last Update: 09/29/16
Crimes happen all of the time here in South Florida, and all too often, people (residents of Florida as well as tourists) are injured during the commission of these crimes. Sometimes, these victims are hurt as a byproduct of the crime — for instance, a car crash happens as a robber speeds away in traffic, trying to escape the police – and other times, they are hurt because they are the victim of someone who wanted to do them harm (assaults, rapes, and even homicides).
In either case, and from a personal injury perspective, the vital thing about Florida law is that it provides a form of justice to these crime victims that the criminal justice system cannot. Civil injury claims can provide help to crime victims by providing for recovery of things like medical expenses, therapy costs, pain and suffering damages, lost wages, and more.
Crimes and Premises Liability Claims
There are many situations where crime victims have a personal injury claim against a property owner or against a party in control of a business location. In fact, Florida’s “premises liability law” exists to compensate victims when a foreseeable crime occurs at a business location. For example:
- When a female student is the victim of campus rape, then she may have a claim against the college or university in which she seeks reimbursements for expenses she incurred to heal and recover.
- When a retiree is the victim of an armed robbery, then he or she may have a claim against the shopping mall or parking garage to cover his or her medical costs as well as other expenses resulting from the trauma.
- When a child is hurt in a shooting or in a brawl, then the parents may be able to obtain justice from the fast food chain, sporting arena, or other business establishment that failed to provide proper protections by seeking the recovery of long-term rehab costs and other damages to the young victim.
Is Foreseeability a Key to Proving Civil Liability?
In Florida, whether or not a business (i.e. a restaurant, shopping center owner, rental complex, etc.) can be held liable for the damages sustained on their property is determined by whether or not the criminal act was “foreseeable.” Unfortunately right now, the definition of that term is not the same throughout the State. There are different standards for “foreseeability of crimes” depending on where you are located in Florida (this scenario is called a “split among the circuits.” See, e.g., Bellevue v. Frenchy’s South Beach Café, Inc., 136 So. 3d 640 (Fla. 2d DCA 2013) versus Admiral’s Port Condo. Ass’n, Inc. v. Feldman, 426 So. 2d 1054 (Fla. 3d DCA 1983)).
Thus, until the Florida Supreme Court rules and resolves the split, Florida crime victims will need to know what standard applies in their circuit before they will be able to proceed with a premises liability case. Meaning, what the crime victim will need to prove to hold a party liable will depend upon the circuit’s definition of a foreseeable crime.
What is a foreseeable crime?
Right now, that’s not an easy question to answer.
In some Florida circuits, the law allows for a broad-brush in the plaintiff’s presentation of what is considered a foreseeable crime; injured victims are able to introduce proof of a number of prior crimes in the area to prove that the crime that hurt them was foreseeable.
In other Florida circuits, the burden of proof is not as broad but more narrow. In these circuits, the plaintiff in a premises liability case has a tougher standard to overcome in order to win his or her case. Here, the victim has to prove foreseeability by showing that past crimes have a close relationship with the crime in question by showing similarities between 1) when the crimes happened; 2) the place where the crimes happened; and 3) the manner in which the crimes occurred.
Crime Victim Claims and Personal Injury Lawsuits
Regardless of the burden of proof required in a particular case, any crime victim who was hurt on a business property or on any premises owned by a college, hospital, or other institution, should talk to a lawyer to learn their rights and determine if they have a premises liability claim in which they can recover compensation for their damages.
Criminal charges may be filed against the criminal, but those charges will usually only seek to punish the perpetrator; criminal charges are not specifically designed to help the crime victim with compensation.
Personal injury lawyers are trained to help crime victims seek justice in ways that a criminal prosecutor cannot. Sometimes, it is through premises liability law that these crime victims may be able to find justice and the ability to move forward with their lives.
For more on this topic, please read our post, “Have You Been Hurt During the Commission of a Crime in South Florida? Personal Injury Florida Negligent Security Claims Based Upon Criminal Acts.”
What Should You Do Now?
A good piece of advice if you have been harmed at a business or commercial location, is to 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.
- What Happens When Someone Is Injured at a Business or Commercial Location?: Florida Premises Liability Law
Do you have questions or comments? Then please feel free to send Alan an email or call him now at (954) 458-8655.