The loss of a family member is one of the worst experiences that any person can ever be forced to endure. If a loved one was killed due to a criminal attack, it is even more difficult. The perpetrator must be held accountable through the criminal justice system. If the incident happened on the premises of a business or property owner, they may also bear liability through a civil claim.
In California, business and property owners could potentially be legally liable for a homicide that occurs on their premises under the legal doctrine of negligent security. These are highly complex cases. In this article, our Stockton wrongful death attorney provides a comprehensive overview of negligent security claims in California.
Negligent Security: Defined
In California, negligent security is a legal concept that holds property owners or property occupiers (businesses) responsible for harm caused to individuals on their premises as a result of inadequate security measures. It is a type of premises liability claim. The harm suffered by a person could be caused by a physical or other type of criminal activity. Tragically, these attacks can sometimes be homicides. A business or property owner in California that failed to provide adequate security could be liable for death on its premises. Negligent security cases typically arise in settings such as apartment buildings, hotels, parking lots, banks (ATMs), and other businesses.
Wrongful Death and Negligent Security are Fault-Based Claims
Both wrongful death claims and negligent security claims are fault-based legal cases in California. In other words, neither a Stockton business nor a Stockton property owner is automatically liable for a deadly incident that happens on its premises. Instead, these defendants will only bear civil responsibility for death caused by a third party if the surviving family members can prove that their negligence—such as their failure to provide adequate security—contributed to the death.
How to Prove that a Business or Property Owner is Liable for a Wrongful Death
Evidence is key to wrongful death and negligent security claims in California. If your family member was killed in an attack at a Stockon business, apartment complex, or other property, it is imperative that the case is comprehensively investigated. A number of different things must be shown to hold a defendant liable for a wrongful death on the grounds of negligent security, including:
- Duty: To start, you must establish that a business or property owner has a legal duty to provide reasonable security measures to protect people on their property. Notably, California law holds that businesses and property owners owe very limited duties to trespassers.
- Breach: Next, it must be proven that the business or property owner breached this duty of care by failing to provide adequate security. Examples of negligent security could include broken locks on doors, poor screening and entrances, and lack of security guards.
- Causation: Additionally, plaintiffs in a wrongful death claim for negligent security must also prove that the defendant’s breach of duty (poor security) was the proximate cause of the wrongful death. In other words, the lack of adequate security caused the wrongful death.
How Long Do You Have to File a Wrongful Death Claim in Stockton?
In California, a wrongful death claim must typically be filed within two years from the date of death (Cal. Civ. Proc. Code, § 335.1). The statute of limitations is the same for wrongful death claims filed on the basis of negligent security. There are some limited exceptions—such as if the death was not immediately known or reasonably discoverable. Be proactive: Consult with a Stockton, CA wrongful death attorney as soon as possible.
What Compensation Can Be Recovered in a California Wrongful Death Claim?
There is no amount of financial compensation that could ever be adequate in a wrongful death claim. Nonetheless, civil legal action against a negligent business or negligent property owner is still an important step. It is the best path for grieving families to seek justice, closure, and the financial relief that they need to support themselves.
As stated in Judicial Council of California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI No. 3921), a jury in a wrongful death claim must award a “reasonable” amount that is “based on the evidence” and “common sense.” Wrongful death compensation may be granted for both economic losses (funeral/burial expenses, loss of financial benefits, etc) and non-economic losses (loss of love, companionship, etc)
Contact Our Stockton, CA Wrongful Death Attorney Today
At Redkey Gordon Law Corp, our Stockton wrongful death lawyers have the professional skills and legal expertise to protect the rights and interests of grieving families. Was your family member killed due to the negligence of a business or property owner? We are here to help. Give us a phone call now or contact us online to set up a free, no commitment consultation. We represent grieving families in Stockton, San Joaquin County, and throughout the surrounding area.