Parking garages, whether they make visiting downtown more convenient than metered parking or provide parking in malls, hotels, and other places, are areas almost every motorist has used at one point or another. Unfortunately, however, parking garages are also places where crime takes place. What happens if you get attacked in a parking garage? Do you have legal recourse if you or a loved one is robbed, assaulted, stabbed, or raped in a parking garage?
You may be able to sue for personal injury damages under certain circumstances. Find out how Levin Firm can help you below.
Can You Sue for Personal Injury in a Parking Garage Attack?
A victim's ability to sue if someone attacks them in a parking garage hinges on negligence. Briefly, negligence means that an entity, whether a person or a company, owed a duty of care to the public and did not fulfill that duty of care to a reasonable standard.
Further, you will need to show that the attack caused your injuries and that they did not stem from some other cause—to prove negligence. If negligence occurred, the negligent party is responsible for damage compensation to the victim under personal injury law.
"Duty of care" may sound like an amorphous concept. It is a term we do not usually hear. But think of it this way. Property owners owe a duty of care to make their premises reasonably safe. A landlord, for example, must provide adequate security to tenants, such as locks on doors and lighted hallways and common areas.
Similarly, parking garage owners and managers have a duty of care to the public to maintain adequate security and safety in the garages. If they violated that duty of care, you might sue them for your injuries.
Unfortunately, criminals may believe parking garages are fertile places to ply their trade. While cars may fill them, entire decks can be devoid of people. This fact is particularly true given the increase in automation over the past decade, such as self-pay kiosks and unmanned garages.
If no other drivers are entering their vehicles at the same time as you are, you may be entirely alone, with no staff around. Parking garages also provide multiple places to hide, such as large pillars and the sides of other vehicles.
Criminals can escape easily in vehicles or by foot, as a person driving or walking in a parking garage arouses no curiosity—it is common. Finally, potential victims often have cash or credit cards because they are about to pay for parking. They may even have cash or credit cards in their hands when a criminal approaches.
About the Crime Itself
Victims should report any crime immediately. Unfortunately, many areas of the U.S. witnessed significant increases in crimes like aggravated assault during the COVID-19 pandemic, and crimes like robbery and assault in many cities are still rising.
Reporting a crime increases the chance of law enforcement bringing the perpetrator to justice and hopefully removing them from the streets. In addition, law enforcement can police more aggressively if they know where crimes are taking place, and reporting a crime gives them that data.
But victims have an additional reason to report a crime. If you want to bring a suit for personal injury damages, you will need evidence of what happened to you. If you suffer a robbery and a beating around the face, your case will benefit if you have a police report indicating you reported robbery and assault.
If you do not have evidence of what happened, the negligent party (and their insurance company) may try to use that fact as proof that you did not suffer the injuries you say you did—or, if you did, it was not in their parking garage. Insurance companies may argue that if you did not file a police report, the incident did not happen. It is a sad fact, but even the most negligent people and companies defend themselves, even if the defense is untrue.
In a criminal case, the police bring charges, and the state tries the accused in a criminal court. On the other hand, bringing a personal injury suit is a recourse for victims and takes place through the civil courts. The two court systems, civil and criminal, are entirely separate. A personal injury suit can proceed whether or not authorities charge or convict the perpetrator—or even whether they find him.
What Kind of Damages Can I Receive?
If you are injured or otherwise harmed in a parking garage, you can pursue:
- Medical bills - For treatment of injuries, including emergency treatment and transport, hospitalization, doctor’s office visits, prescribed medicine, diagnostic tests, physical therapy, and more.
- Future medical bills - If your injuries are sufficiently severe to need treatment in the future, medical experts forecast the future price of treatment and care.
- Wages lost from work - For wages lost due to the incident itself, treatment or injuries, and recovery.
- The lifetime value of earnings - If the injuries rendered you unable to work in the future.
- Property damage - For personal property damaged or taken in the incident, such as a vehicle.
- Pain and suffering - For physical, emotional, and psychological pain and suffering related to injuries, treatment, and the attack itself.
What Do I Need to Show in a Suit Over Parking Garage Security?
If you suffered an attack and injuries in a parking garage, the prospects of receiving justice in damage compensation would hinge on several factors.
The first is the property owner or manager’s duty of care. They have a duty of care to maintain their parking garages in a manner safe for the public to use. If the parking garage was not safe, they have breached the duty of care.
But how is safe determined? A court may look at obvious markers of safety and security. Did the doors have locks or a locking system, for example, and were they working? Was the parking garage adequately lighted? If the door was plexiglass or clear, was it broken? If the lock system did not work, the parking garage was very dark, or the owner failed to fix broken doors, someone arguably failed to uphold their duty of care.
The court may also examine whether similar incidents previously occurred in the parking garage. If they did, the landlord should have taken steps to make the garage safer. If they did not, they could be deemed negligent.
The Reasonable Person Standard
Occasionally, property owners and managers try to defend themselves by averring that they did not know the property was unsafe.
Personal injury law follows a reasonable person standard in such instances. You can hold the property owner liable (negligent and financially responsible for damages) if they reasonably should have known of unsafe conditions.
For example, if an assault occurred because of a broken door, you must know when it broke. If it broke a week before the incident, the property owner should have adequate staff and inspection procedures to know about the defect and repair it. That is true whether they did or not. Failure to know about a major potential danger in a week is a failure to discharge the duty of care.
But what if the door broke shortly before the attack occurred? In that case, a court might hold that the landlord did not have sufficient time to find out about the defect and repair it.
What Should I Do if Someone Attacks Me in a Parking Garage?
It is only normal to feel traumatized if a criminal attacks you in a parking garage. You may feel disoriented and stressed and not know the best course of action. But preserve your health and peace of mind. In addition, some of these steps help ensure that you can bring a personal injury suit should you decide to do so later.
First, you need to contact the police. Answer all questions as thoroughly as you can. Provide your contact information. Get a copy of the police report.
Second, if any parking garage staff are on-premises, report the incident to them. You may suffer an assault on the third floor and see no one around, but if the parking garage contains a manned booth on the first floor, report the incident there.
There are several reasons for this. The parking garage staff and owners need to know this so that they can take steps to correct any defect that led to the assault. In addition, if you are attacked and leave without notifying on-premises staff, it allows the landlord's side to defend themselves by saying nothing happened. A judge and jury might find it strange that you did not report an attack.
Third, if you see any eyewitnesses, try to obtain their contact information, such as names and phone numbers. Again, you will need evidence to bring a lawsuit, and eyewitness testimony can provide evidence.
Fourth, if you were assaulted or harmed in any way, go to a hospital’s emergency room or your personal physician. Only a doctor can adequately diagnose any injuries you may have. Follow their treatment plan and keep all records of your visits and related matters (such as x-rays, filling prescriptions, and so on).
See a doctor even if any injuries seem minor. Minor injuries can pose dangers. A mild concussion, for example, can stem from jostling your head and neck. Do not run the risk of not receiving needed treatment!
In addition, you need evidence about the nature and extent of any injuries. Medical reports constitute important evidence in any personal injury case. If you do not seek medical help, property owners, managers, and insurance companies can try to use that as evidence that you suffered no injuries.
Fifth, if you suffered property damage to a vehicle, report it to your insurance company if appropriate and get it repaired. You can sue for property damages as part of the personal injury lawsuit.
Sixth, it is prudent to consult a personal injury attorney specializing in premises liability and security. Lawyers can help injured people.
How a Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help You
You may focus on the prosecution of the crime and not think about suing in the wake of an attack. Or, you may focus on healing from the attack, both physically and emotionally.
Even if you are not positive you want to sue, it is prudent to make an initial appointment with an attorney. The first consultation with a personal injury attorney is always free.
Why? Because it serves as an open exchange of information. Frankly, the attorney needs to talk to you about what happened, the circumstances under which it happened, the harm you suffered, and how your life is affected. They need to know if a suit is warranted and the chances of you receiving justice.
Consulting a lawyer also lets you know the parameters of potential damage compensation. For example, many people might not know you can receive compensation for lost income. Do not run the risk of not knowing what you should demand.
If you and the lawyer decide to work together, they can provide help in multiple ways. They can, for example, help you gather evidence. If your medical bills seem overwhelming, or you cannot find evidence of defects in the parking garage’s security system, a lawyer’s investigatory team can help.
They can also request important information you may not have access to, such as surveillance footage from the parking garage (if available).
In some instances, they can hire investigators to find out if similar incidents have occurred in the parking garage or the area.
If you are dealing with an insurance company, you may face challenges getting a just settlement on your own. Insurance companies work to maximize their profits. That entails settling claims for the lowest amount possible (or not at all), whether that is fair to you or not. Lawyers negotiate for a living.
Finally, a lawyer can help you file a suit and litigate it in court.