Compensation for South Carolina Violent Crime Victims
A recent report concluded that Columbia was one of the most dangerous cities in South Carolina. The most at-risk areas were Belmont, St. Andrews Terrace Road, Fairwold, the city center, Lorrick Avenue, Colonial Drive and Old Manor Road/Melo Drive.
Violent crimes are difficult to successfully prosecute. Investigators often have very little evidence to work with, and even if they do, the inquiry could take months. Furthermore, the state must prove guilt beyond any reasonable doubt, which is a very high standard of proof. Finally, even if a court finds the defendant guilty, this finding usually does little or nothing to compensate crime victims.
Things are different when a Columbia personal injury attorney files a civil claim. These claims hold negligent parties, usually negligent owners, responsible for the injuries they cause. Additionally, the compensation in a civil claim allows crime victims to move forward with their lives.
Duty of Care
Most assaults and other violent crimes occur at parking lots and other private property. Property owners have a legal duty to keep people safe. The extent of this duty usually hinges on the relationship between the victim and property owner, as follows:
- Invitee: Most guests, customers, and employees are invitees in South Carolina. Because of the special relationship, the owner has a special duty of care. This duty includes a responsibility to constantly maintain safety. Different rules usually apply to work-related injuries.
- Licensee: A lesser duty of care applies if the victim was a licensee, or a non-beneficial guest with permission to be on the property. Children who walk across grocery store parking lots on their way to and from school are licensees. The lesser duty of care is a duty to warn about latent (hidden) defects.
- Trespasser: Usually, the law doesn’t protect injury victims in no permission and no benefit situations. Stories of injured burglars who successfully sued homeowners are mostly urban legends. Some exceptions apply. For example, the attractive nuisance rule protects some child trespassers in some situations.
These categories often overlap and are less than 100 percent certain. For example, if Tom didn’t pay his apartment rent on time or broke another rule, like a no smoking rule, he could be an invitee, a licensee, or even a trespasser.
Knowledge of Hazard
Prosecutors must normally establish criminal intent in criminal court. Similarly, a Columbia personal injury lawyer must establish knowledge in civil court.
Direct evidence of actual knowledge is usually the best evidence. Property owners who ignore injury hazards, like the ones listed below, are clearly negligent, in the eyes of many jurors. This proof is usually strong enough to make a basic case and also withstand insurance company defenses, even if only a little proof is available.
Circumstantial evidence of constructive knowledge (should have known) is admissible as well. However, unless a lawyer presents a substantial amount of circumstantial evidence maximum compensation is probably unavailable.
This compensation usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.
Foreseeability of Injury
Foreseeability (possibility) of injury is always an element in negligence cases. It’s an especially important element in third-party crime civil cases.
Owners are only legally responsible for damages if the assault or other third-party crime was foreseeable in their eyes. Evidence of foreseeability includes the kind of business, neighborhood’s crime rate, and prior similar incidents in the area.
Victims must establish foreseeability, and all other elements of a negligence case, by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not).
Reach Out to a Diligent Richland County Lawyer
Injury victims are entitled to significant compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Columbia, contact the Marc Brown Law Firm. The sooner you contact us, the sooner we start working for you.