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Can You Sue a Nightclub for a Sexual Assault?

What happens when a fun night out on the town becomes a nightmare because of a sexual assault? Bars, nightclubs, and similar establishments frequently attract a criminal element. Innocent people can be victimized. This leaves victims with emotional, physical, and psychological trauma. 

Bars, nightclubs, and similar establishments serving alcohol must employ reasonable security measures to protect guests from violence. In some instances, victims can sue a nightclub for a sexual assault if the assault was “reasonably foreseeable.” If you experienced a nightclub sexual assault because a business jeopardized your safety, an attorney can help you hold responsible parties accountable.

What Is Negligent Security?

Negligent security is a type of premises liability law dealing with negligent property owners or other parties who fail to protect visitors and patrons from violent crime. A property owner can be liable for negligent security if they fail to provide adequate security and someone is injured or killed. Physical attacks, robberies, and sexual assaults can lead to negligent security claims. 

Examples of Negligent Security

Implementing appropriate security measures is one of the primary ways a property owner protects the safety of visitors and patrons. Common examples of negligent security include the following: 

  • Failure to hire adequate security,
  • Security guard misconduct,
  • Poorly trained security personnel,
  • Poorly maintained or broken security equipment,
  • Malfunctioning security cameras, and
  • Inadequate lighting.

Any of these issues could lead to a preventable attack. Bars, nightclubs, and similar establishments that open their doors to patrons must keep their premises reasonably safe for visitors. They must protect visitors from foreseeable dangers. When an establishment fails to do so, negligent security allows a victim to attempt to hold a responsible party liable for their negligence.

Can I Sue a Bar for Assault?

Yes. Premises liability law allows for suing a bar for assault. However, property owners are not responsible for every injury or assault on their property. An experienced negligent security attorney can assess the circumstances of your situation. They can determine whether you will likely make a successful claim against the property owner, management company, or other entity.

How to Sue a Bar for Negligence?

Property owners are responsible for providing visitors with a safe and secure environment. An experienced negligent security lawyer can assist you with your case.

Establishing a Negligent Security Claim

Under Indiana law, property owners must take steps to prevent reasonably foreseeable acts of third parties when they know or should have known that criminal activity has occurred on the premises. A victim must prove the following elements of negligence:

  • A duty owed to the plaintiff by the defendant to take reasonable precautions to protect the plaintiff from foreseeable criminal acts;
  • A breach of the duty; and
  • Injury proximately caused by the breach of duty.

Foreseeability is often the most challenging element for a victim to prove in a negligent security case based on a sexual assault. 

Proving Foreseeability

Whether the property owner took reasonable precautions to protect invitees from foreseeable harm is pivotal. The Indiana Supreme Court has declared that foreseeability, as it relates to duty, is a critical inquiry in determining whether the property owner’s duty of reasonable care extends to a particular case. 

Property owners must take reasonable precautions to protect guests from foreseeable criminal acts. To determine whether this duty extends to the sexual assault in a particular scenario, the critical inquiry is determining whether the attack was foreseeable considering:

  • The broad type of plaintiff,
  • The broad type of harm, and
  • Whether the property owner had reason to expect any imminent harm.

For example, if it was apparent that the staff at the establishment knew of an increasing risk of sexual assault due to behaviors or escalating tensions between the perpetrator and the victim, the property owner likely owed a duty to the victim. 

Establishing Your Case with Relevant Evidence

It is critical to support your case with relevant evidence. An attorney can help you with this process. Evidence to prove foreseeability could include:

  • Public documents, such as police grid reports showing criminal activity in an area;
  • Witness statements from other patrons of events before the assault;
  • The police report;
  • Incident reports from the establishment;
  • Media reports about similar incidents in the area;
  • Medical experts; and
  • Speaking with the responding officer about prior criminal activity at the property.

The type of evidence required depends on the case. Expert witnesses, such as law enforcement officers, public safety officers, and criminologists could strengthen your case. These experts can analyze public records and crime statistics to prove that the property owner was or should have been aware of the crime risk in the area and did not act to provide adequate security. 

What Steps Do You Take?

If you or a loved one experienced sexual assault while on someone else’s property, you should take the following steps:

  • Do not discuss the case without an experienced attorney;
  • Keep all medical bills and records relating to the sexual assault; and
  • Contact an experienced negligent security lawyer as soon as possible.

Taking on a lawsuit to hold responsible parties accountable can be overwhelming. You are trying to recover and move on from the incident. But you also want justice.

The earlier you seek legal assistance, the greater your chances of obtaining a favorable result. Your attorney will be able to start building your case. They can collect and preserve valuable evidence to establish your right to compensation. At the latest, you have two years from the date of the sexual assault to bring a case.

Choose Gerling Law for a Nightclub Sexual Assault Case

If you or a loved one has to deal with the consequences of a nightclub sexual assault, discussing your case with a law firm with deep experience is critical. When you work with Gerling Law, you work with attorneys with decades of experience equipped to handle the complexities of your case. Our legal team takes every case personally and treats each client with compassion.We will work tirelessly to hold negligent parties accountable. This is especially the case when assisting victims of a sexual assault. We aim to seek justice, build the strongest case, and obtain rightful compensation. Contact Gerling Law for a free, no-obligation initial consultation today. “Go with Experience. Go with Gerling.”

Author Photo

Gayle Gerling Pettinga

Born and raised in Evansville, Gayle is a respected, experienced lawyer and a valued community leader. She graduated near the top of her class at Indiana University’s prestigious Maurer School of Law. She’s practiced law with one of the largest firms in Indianapolis as well as one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world. And that means she knows how big law firms and big companies think and how they operate – and she will put that knowledge to work for you.

Gayle has received numerous awards and honors including Martindale-Hubbell — Peer Review Rated: AV®, American Institute of Personal Injury Attorneys 10 Best Attorneys in Indiana for Exceptional and Outstanding Client Service, and YWCA Evansville 100 Years, 100 Women Honoree, 2011.

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