Apartment complexes are supposed to be spaces where we can feel safe enough to call it “home.” Yet, there are countless examples of crimes and other misdeeds occurring at apartment complexes across Atlanta that cause serious injury to tenants and visitors alike.
Just recently, a DeKalb County apartment complex off Kensington Road erupted in gunfire, leading to the death of a home invasion suspect and a man who was reportedly defending his property against him. Bullets rained through the walls of a nearby apartment, causing a mother to fear for her and her 5-year-old child’s lives.
Tenants were reported to have said that, “they don’t feel safe anymore in their own home and want the violence to stop.” One tenant even said that “something has to change. Someone has to speak up and make change.”
In certain cases, tenants injured by crimes at their complex may be eligible for compensation from the company that owns, manages, or otherwise has a direct responsibility for maintaining the safety of the apartment complex. For their case to be successful, the injury victim must prove that the complex did not take appropriate steps to eliminate a threat they either knew about or should have been able to predict because it was “foreseeable.”
This can be difficult to prove, especially without the help of a gunshot victim lawyer in Atlanta. In most cases, victims must be able to establish a pattern of crime in the complex, one that those responsible for its safety chose to ignore.
Apartment Complexes’ Responsibility to Keep Tenants Safe
Generally speaking, property owners in Georgia have a basic duty to keep tenants safe. Property owners are “…liable in damages…for injuries caused by his failure to exercise ordinary care in keeping the premises and approaches safe” (GA Code § 51-3-1).
This extends to a basic duty of ensuring their property is safe from criminal activity. If an apartment complex knows of criminal activity on their premises but does nothing to impede future events, they may be held liable if their tenants are injured in another crime on their property. For example, even with knowledge of potential criminal activity, they may neglect to fix locks or install security devices like a camera or gates.
The Georgia Landlord Tenant Handbook provides another example:
“Landlords must take ordinary care to prevent foreseeable third-party criminal acts on tenants. For example, if there is a broken parking lot light and the tenant is concerned about safety, give written notice of the problem to the property manager and owner and state the safety concern because of the defect. The landlord may be liable if someone is later injured because there was an unsafe condition that the landlord knew about and did not repair.”
While the guide is just a guide it does illustrate a situation where the owner of a property knew about an unsafe condition, yet neglected to remedy the situation.
How Injury Victims Can Prove Their Apartment Complex Was Negligent
Assessing standard of ordinary care expected of property owners is difficult in crime-related situations.
While an apartment complex can almost always control whether its lights work or whether its stairs fall apart, it can’t always control or predict human behavior. As a result, many apartment complex owners (or related companies) will defend against a personal injury liability claim by saying, “there is no way we could have known about or predicted this crime, and we are not responsible for the injuries caused by random criminals.”
To counter this defense, the plaintiff must prove that the apartment complex did have a responsibility to prevent the crime, either because:
- They actually did know it was going to happen because they had evidence that a crime was being planned; or
- They should have been able to predict it was going to happen based on a pattern of earlier crimes.
The second strategy refers to a situation like the one with the broken parking light. A dangerous condition existed that the apartment knew about, yet they did nothing to fix it. Inevitably, someone got hurt because the problem was ignored.
For instance, let’s imagine an apartment complex has a broken front gate. Several times in the past few years, armed criminals who were not tenants have been able to enter the complex through the gate and shoot people. After the first or second crime, the complex could have fixed the gate, potentially preventing the next shooting from happening. If they did no such thing, then a victim might possibly have a chance at a successful injury liability claim.
Stand Up for Your Rights with Aid from a Gunshot Victim Lawyer in Atlanta
If you have been hurt as a result of a violent crime in your complex that you feel the property owners, property managers, and/or security company should have been able to foresee, then you may have a potential case against all negligent parties.
You can work with a gunshot victim lawyer in Atlanta to begin building your case. They will put in the legal research needed to form a strategy for your case that includes evidence, case law from prior rulings, expert testimony, and whatever else is needed to give your case the maximum chance of success.
Schedule your free, no-obligation case review with Mike Rafi today when you contact us online or by phone at 404-948-3311.