(Here is an excerpt from
some of Mr. Zehring's training curriculum)
Size of the
Roughly 80% of the criminal acts at
shopping centers, strip malls and business offices occur in the parking
lot. Therefore, some lawyers find no shortage of premises liability cases
based on the fact that the owner or management did not provide adequate
security measures to deter criminal activity or risks of slip
Since most lawsuits
revolve around lack of sufficient lighting,
anyone in business should be careful to ensure that they are taking
"reasonable care" in their efforts to provide for the protection
of employees, invitees and guests against foreseeable criminal threats.
Frequently, a business owner is not fully
aware of the crimes that have occurred on or near their property. Not
knowing about criminal activity may not be a viable defense in a tort
case, especially if it is found that you should have known about it, or
even worse, that you turned a blind eye to it.
All too often it is easier for business
owners to ignore crime problems because they feel it will be too difficult
or impossible to break the crime trend. Fortunately, there are some things
you can do to improve security, deter crime, reduce potential liability
and make your customers feel safer.
Keep in mind; in places where parking lot
security measures have been implemented, customer use has actually
increased because they feel safer. Generally, increased customer use means
increased profits. This fact can be used to justify the increased cost
related to any security improvements. A decrease in customer use will
definitely translate into decreased profits. These are a few areas
evaluated in a thorough risk assessment.
Each parking lot presents its own particular problems based on physical
layout, terrain, atmospheric conditions, and security requirements.
Therefore all aspects of lighting cannot be covered here. Generally
speaking, the goal is to direct consistent illumination throughout the
transitional areas so as to provide good visibility with a minimum of
The layout of a parking lot can sometimes provide an advantage for
natural surveillance. Parking lots are generally public space so it is
difficult to control access to the property. In some cases, rerouting
incoming and outgoing traffic through the parking lot to pass by the more
remote areas will increase natural surveillance and the opportunity for
crime is reduced.
It is not uncommon in high crime or remote areas to see Emergency Call
Stations strategically placed so they can be used to alert others of an
emergency situation. These systems frequently provide immediate voice
contact with a guardian, an audible alarm and a type of flashing light to
attract attention to trouble spot.
While such measures may not be necessary in
every application, there are other strategies that are considered
essential for appropriate detection and response regarding criminal
activity. For example, windows should be kept clear of banners, posters or
any obstructions which would preclude persons on the inside of the
building from seeing out into the parking lots.
Windows that are free from obstructions
will also allow those on the outside to detect criminal activity on the
inside, such as in the case of an armed robbery in progress. This will
give the opportunity for observers to notify police, and may prevent them
from walking into a potentially fatal environment. It may also prevent an
armed robbery and murder altogether.
Risk Management is the implementation of
these precautions and other recommendations made during a thorough risk
analysis of your property. We at Risk
Assessment Services, L.L.C. can show you how security
improvements are justifiable and cost effective.
A thorough risk assessment will identify
the types of risks and potential losses. More valuable than your
personal property is the well-being of your most valuable assets -- your
customers and employees.
How much value does your company place on them?
They can tell every time they drive into your parking lot. If there are
safer parking lots to park in, or safer businesses to work for, your
customers and employees may go there instead.
"Slip and fall" is a term for personal
injuries that are caused when a person slips and falls on a floor,
sidewalk, parking lot, or other surface. Just because a person is
injured doesn't mean they will necessarily be compensated. Proving these
cases can be a challenge.
An uneven floor, poor lighting, a slippery floor
surface or an unseen danger, such as a hole covered up by a rug, may
cause a "slip and fall" accident. Circumstances surrounding a
"slip and fall" accident are important when determining who
may be legally responsible for any injuries.
Responsibility (Duty of Care)
As a broad general rule, if you are the owner of a
parking lot, or other premises, you are responsible for injuries
resulting from a slip and fall on the premises. An occupier of the
premises, such as a storeowner who leases a store, may also be liable
for injuries if the occupier has control over the premises in which the
If you are an invited guest on a property, the
owner or the occupier who invites you has the responsibility (a duty of
care) to keep the premises safe, and to warn you if there is any
dangerous condition that might cause you harm. However, if you are
working on a
premise for a business purpose, the owner or occupier may owe you a
higher duty of care.
State workers compensation laws usually govern
lawsuits brought by employees against employers. Under these
"workers comp" laws, employers are held strictly liable for
injuries suffered by employees. In return for this strict liability, the
workers compensation statute limits the amount of damages that an
employee can recover. See Employment Law:
The "standard of care" that a property
owner owes to a trespasser is usually less than the standard of care
that is owed to a person who has permission to be on the property,
except in the case of children. The law recognizes that children may not
recognize potential danger in the same way that adults to, and requires
adults to take greater care to protect against harm to children.
Claims Against the Government
"Slip and fall" lawsuits against the
federal government are usually covered by the Federal Tort Claims Act
and "Slip and fall" lawsuits against state and local
governments are covered by similar state "tort claims acts."
Often these statutes require lawsuits to be brought within a very short
period of time, and only after a written notice of the injury has been
given to the government.
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