Atlanta’s murder rate has been high for years. After jumping 60% in 2020, it has stayed above the city’s average since then. In 2022, the city saw 170 homicides. The increase was unevenly distributed across the city, with northwest and southwest Atlanta seeing jumps while Buckhead and other neighborhoods saw declines.
Losing a loved one in a violent attack is tragic. In addition to grieving, family members have enormous expenses, including medical care to treat their loved one before passing, as well as lost income. If your spouse provided most of your family’s income, then you could struggle to stay in your home.
Unfortunately, few violent criminals have any resources to pay compensation to surviving family members. Does that mean you are out of luck and must shoulder the financial consequences yourself? Not necessarily. You might be able to sue for negligent security. Our Atlanta wrongful death attorney goes into more detail below.
What is a Negligent Security Claim?
Georgia law says that property owners can be liable for damages to anyone injured by the owner’s failure to use ordinary care in keeping their property and any approaches safe.
Ordinarily, we think of dangerous hazards as things like cracked tiles, ice, spilled liquids, or uneven floorboards which can cause someone to slip or trip. However, violent criminals are also a hazard, especially in a congested city with a high crime rate.
A property owner or occupier could be liable if they fail to protect their customers or visitors from violent attack, especially if crime was something they could anticipate. When owners/occupiers fail to use reasonable care, they can be sued by victims who bring a negligent security claim.
Did Negligent Security Contribute to Your Loved One’s Death?
If your spouse or child was attacked and died, you might think this is an open and shut question. However, we need to look at the surrounding circumstances. No property owner 100% guarantees that you won’t be attacked on their property—and the law doesn’t require perfection.
Instead, Georgia requires that owners and occupiers use “ordinary care” to keep the property safe. That means the type of care that most reasonable people would use. A business would need to employ adequate security based on a variety of factors:
- The crime rate in the area. The higher the crime rate, the more security the business needs.
- Whether similar crimes were committed at the property. If someone else was stabbed in the parking lot, then the owner is on notice that this is a possibility. They need to increase their security to prevent future incidents.
- What actions the property owner took to investigate questionable people. A hotel or motel should investigate people loitering around the halls, and no owner can bury their head in the sand.
How Much Security Should a Business Have?
It depends on the factors listed above. Some common security features include:
- Security cameras
- Trained security guards or front desk clerks
- Adequate lighting on walkways and in stairwells
- Door buzzers
- Security alarms
- Gates or fences
- Locks on doors and windows
A property in a very safe neighborhood might not need all of these security features, whereas those in more dangerous areas could need most or all.
We carefully review all the security measures, as well as any action (or inaction) taken by the property owner to determine whether the level of security was adequate.
Deciding Who to Sue
Of course, you might also sue the person who gravely injured your loved one. Someone who stabs or shoots a person has committed a tort under Georgia law. As a result, they are responsible for the death that results and can be sued for wrongful death.
However, this person probably doesn’t have cash in a bank to pay any kind of settlement. Most Georgians are living paycheck to paycheck as it is.
This is why suing a business makes sense. Before they can open their doors, most Georgia businesses purchase a liability insurance policy in case someone is injured by one of their products or a hazard on the premises. These policies are usually generous, with high limits, and you can make a claim on that policy for your loved one’s wrongful death.
Bringing a claim isn’t easy—we aren’t suggesting that. Insurers try to reject as many claims as they can. And the property owner might claim they did everything humanly possible to prevent crime. You need an Atlanta wrongful death attorney to gather all necessary evidence to make your case.
A Victim’s Actions Matter, Too
Sometimes, a crime victim contributes to their attack. For example, your child could rent a hotel room and then invite someone inside who ends up attacking them. The hotel might not have any responsibility in that case.
This isn’t blaming the victim—the law actually analyzes whether your loved one made some mistake or was careless themselves. And if the victim started a fight, then you might not be able to sue anyone at all.
Meet with an attorney to review the facts of the crime.
You Can Bring a Wrongful Death Claim Even if There’s a Criminal Trial
The person who attacked the deceased might face criminal charges for homicide or manslaughter. The state will file those charges and present evidence in an attempt to convict them.
A wrongful death case is civil, not criminal. And when negligent security is to blame, we sue the property owner, either individually or along with the person who committed the attack. For this reason, we can handle your wrongful death claim independently of whatever is happening in the criminal trial.
Call Our Atlanta Wrongful Death Attorney
Many people understandably are confused about what steps they should take after a loved one is killed. You might be meeting with police investigators and prosecutors to go over what you know. Please do not neglect your rights under civil law. At Stewart Miller Simmons Trial Attorneys, we can identify whether you have a valid wrongful death claim. Call us today at (404) 529-3476 to speak with one of our lawyers.