How Do You Prove Wrongful Death Due to Security?

When a loved one losses their life because of the action, inaction or negligence of another person, under Arizona law you have the right to file a civil lawsuit. In some cases, surviving family members may also learn the person responsible for the death is subject to criminal charges as well. However, one of the concerns that many clients have is what must be done to prove wrongful death, particularly in the case where a loved one is lost because a business owner failed to offer adequate security.

Understanding Inadequate Security

When a business is open for business, they owe all potential consumers a duty of care to keep their premises safe. While many people believe this applies only to the inside of the facility, the truth is that it applies to outside the facility as well. For example, parking lots must be adequately lighted to ensure visitors are not harmed while driving in the parking lot. Security issues are also something property owners need to worry about for people who are visiting property.  Some of the considerations that a business owner needs to take into consideration include:

  • Safety of area – In a neighborhood where there is a high rate of crime, property owners may be required to have increased security which may involve security guards or cameras in addition to ensuring the area is well lit.
  • Alleys and walkways – Any facility that has alleys or walkways which are not well lit or properly secured could mean an unsafe environment for potential customers. If a customer is mugged or suffers any injury because the area has inadequate lighting the business may be held responsible.
  • Parking garages – Shopping centers and other large business facilities that have attached parking garages must ensure the area is safe for the people using the facility. In some cases, there may be a need for security guards, increased lighting or security cameras.
  • Restaurants and Bars - Dining patrons have the right to be safe while eating or drinking and the lack of security could result in harassment, known as DRAM shop liability

What is Necessary to Prove Wrongful Death?

In order to demonstrate a death was wrongful, the person filing the suit must first prove a condition existed that the property area was aware of that ultimately resulted in the persons death. For example, in a high-crime neighborhood, a customer who is stabbed in a parking lot and subsequently loses their life would be considered a wrongful death. Because wrongful death is classified under personal injury law, the first consideration is whether the person who ultimately died could have filed a personal injury lawsuit had they survived.

The standard of proof is:

  • The victim has succumbed to their injuries
  • The owner of the property should have been aware of the conditions that lead to the death
  • Had the victim survived, they could have filed a personal injury lawsuit

Related Article: Wrongful Death Lawsuit Process

What Kinds of Incidents Could Potentially Lead to a Civil Suit?

When a death occurs because of inadequate security there are a number of potential causes for the victim’s death including:

  • Attacked in parking lot – When a victim loses their life because of a beating, stabbing or gunshot wound in a parking lot belonging to a business, there may be a basis for a wrongful death suit.
  • Attacked in parking garage – If a property owner has not taken proper precautions to ensure the safety of those who are using a parking garage that belongs to them and a victim is mugged, stabbed or gunned down, there may be a basis for a civil suit.
  • Dark alleys belonging to property – When a business has alleyways that provide dark areas for criminals to hide out in who ultimately kill someone on a property, the business owner may be liable for wrongful death.

While a business owner may feel “no trespassing” signs are adequate, these signs do not protect the safety of visitors nor does it demonstrate a reasonable exercise of their duty of care owed to patrons of the business. Business owners must make sure that property is well lighted and if the area is known for crime, they should have adequate security on the property.

Related Article: What is Premise Liability

Who Can File a Suit and What Compensation Can be Recovered?

Under Arizona laws, the spouse, surviving natural children and parents of victims of wrongful death may file a lawsuit on behalf of the estate of the decedent. The suit must be filed within two years of the date of death in order to pursue compensation. Some of the compensation that may be collected in a wrongful death suit includes:

  • Hospital bills from decedent who died in spite of the care administered
  • Funeral expenses including burial and headstone
  • Wages the decedent could have earned had they not died as a result of the incident
  • Pain and suffering of the person before they died from their injuries
  • Loss of companionship and for children, the loss of guidance

Personal injury attorneys understand that there is never any amount of money that can make up for the loss of a loved one. However, any property owner who has failed to provide security which results in someone’s death because of their inaction must be held accountable.

It is important to work with an attorney immediately after you lose a loved one because most wrongful death cases will involve a fair amount of investigation. For example, if your loved one died as a result of a gunshot in a parking lot, there will have to be an examination of the crime in the area, the lighting in the parking lot and any available security. These cases are extremely complicated and the two year statute of limitations to file a suit begins the day of the death.

None of us ever wants to lose a loved one and when their death occurred as a result of poor security in a parking lot, parking garage or an alley there is no doubt you and your family are devastated. It is even worse when you consider that had the property owner exercised the duty of care they owe to visitors to their place of business.