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Liability For Murders & Accidental Shootings
Shooting deaths and injuries are very common in large cities like Philadelphia. Each year, there are nearly 400 shooting deaths in Philadelphia, or roughly 1 per day. The vast majority of these shooting deaths are homicides or murders. A small number of shooting deaths are accidental (roughly 1 or 2 per year).
In addition, Philadelphia leads the nation in the total number of shooting deaths per year. The city also leads the nation in the annual number of shooting deaths of children under the age of 10.
Shooting victims often require strong legal representation due to concurrent criminal proceedings. Our team includes multiple former criminal prosecutors. We understand these cases, and we understand your needs.
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In many cases, surviving family members are often unaware of their civil legal rights to receive compensation. Oftentimes, other parties can be held liable for negligence which led to the shooting, and in many cases, the ultimate source of financial compensation will be an insurance policy, such as a commercial insurance policy or a homeowners’ insurance policy.
Related: Shootings & Assaults – Victims’ Rights to Restitution in PA and NJ [March 22, 2017, Learn about restitution laws in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. These laws apply in criminal cases and authorize a court to order the criminal perpetrator to pay restitution to the victim for financial losses.]
Parties Liable For Shooting Deaths
The hallmark of a negligence lawsuit is foreseeability—was it reasonable for the defendant to have foreseen the injury? A defendant who could have or should have foreseen the injury (shooting) can be held liable. The following two examples discuss the concept of foreseeability in the context of two shooting deaths.
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Example 1 – Criminal Homicide/Murder & Liability
A Philadelphia resident is robbed, shot and killed after exiting his car in the parking lot of his apartment complex. The shooting occurs in a dark and isolated area of the parking lot. The perpetrator has been robbing individuals in the apartment complex. In the 3 month period prior to the shooting death, there were numerous robberies.
Here, the landlord may be held liable if there is sufficient evidence that the landlord could have or should have foreseen the shooting. Evidence of prior knowledge of the robberies vis-à-vis complaints, police reports, etc., will be helpful in proving the case. Ultimately, the landlord may be liable for failing to implement security measures like installing cameras, hiring security guards or warning tenants.
Most large apartment complexes in Philadelphia have commercial insurance policies which cover acts of negligence by employees of the apartment complex. If there is evidence that the landlord is negligent, then the insurance policy would apply. This means that the victim’s family may be able to obtain financial compensation for the death of their loved one.
It’s important to note that other parties are often liable for shooting deaths, such as bars, restaurants, malls, etc. Any public establishment can be held liable for a shooting death. Again, the key is proving negligence and foreseeability.
Example 2 – Accidental Shooting & Liability
A young child is playing at her friend’s home next door. The friend’s father accidentally leaves a loaded gun within reach. The young child is killed when her friend picks up her father’s gun and fires it.
Here, the father would be liable because he left a loaded gun within reach of young children. The act in and of itself is negligent. It is certainly foreseeable that a child who handles a loaded weapon could seriously injure or kill another person. The family of the young child would have a wrongful death action against the next door neighbor (father).
If the neighbor’s home is covered under a homeowners’ insurance policy or a renters’ insurance policy, the family of the deceased child may be able to obtain financial recovery under the policy. Residential insurance policies would apply to situations where an accidental shooting occurred on the property.
Claims For Financial Compensation In a Shooting Death/Murder Case
Under the laws of PA and NJ, individuals injured in accidental or intentional shootings may make claims for pain and suffering, medical bills and lost wages. In the event of death, surviving family members often have legal rights to compensation for financial losses caused by the death of their loved ones.
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More from the Negligent Security Law Library:
- Assault & Shooting Lawsuits in PA or NJ – Claims for Financial Compensation (October 1, 2014) What claims for financial compensation can be made in a civil assault or shooting case in PA and NJ? Learn about financial compensation for pain and suffering, medical bills, etc.
- Philadelphia Bar & Nightclub Liability for Fights & Shootings (November 18, 2013) Philadelphia area bars, restaurants and clubs are often involved in assaults or shooting deaths. In 2013, a young man was shot after a bar fight led to gun violence.
- Pennsylvania Landlord Liability for Injury from Criminal Activity (July 12, 2012) A legal discussion of landlord liability for the criminal acts of others. Failure to provide reasonable security measures in the face of known risks of criminal activity can subject a landlord or property management company to liability under Pennsylvania law. Tenants and even guests of tenants may have viable claims.