Can I File a Lawsuit Against the County Government if I Was Shot in a Government Housing Property?
One question often posed to personal injury attorneys is whether a person can sue the county for gunshot wounds received on county property — specifically government housing.
The answer is a resounding yes. If the circumstances allow, you can absolutely hold the county government accountable if you are shot on government housing property.
Property owners, including the government, owe a duty of care to all those who are legally on their property. When this duty is breached and someone is injured or killed as a result, the property owner can be held liable for damages.
The question is: “What does ‘duty of care’ really mean?” The answer is that it depends on the circumstances. In the context of a housing property, the government owes a duty of care to take reasonable measures to ensure the safety of residents and legal visitors.
Allowing a tenant or visitor to get shot while on the premises could very well be a violation of this duty — but not necessarily.
Just because a crime took place on government property does not automatically mean that the government can be held liable. The crime must be reasonably foreseeable to hold the government accountable.
For example, if a government housing residence has a history of shootings and armed robberies, the government would be remiss in its duty of care if it did not implement reasonably adequate security measures, such as armed patrol and surveillance cameras.
In such a situation, the victim of a shooting would likely have a strong case for compensation against the government. But that’s not all.
Often, the county government contracts security services from security companies for their housing properties. These security professionals also owe a duty of care to those legally on the premises of these residences. That duty is to provide the same level of security service any other competent security company would be expected to provide. This means you can sue the security company as well as the government.
Security contractors are expected to identify and take measures against foreseeable situations, including shootings. If it is reasonably foreseeable that a person would get shot at a government housing establishment, the security company is required to act to prevent it from happening.
Adequacy of Measures
Whatever the security company decides to do to protect against shootings must be reasonable, or the company can be held liable for the gunshot. In other words, the security company’s response to foreseeable danger must be effective to an extent, but “effective” does not necessarily mean “successful.”
Examples of negligent or inadequate security measures and responses include:
- Failure to install locks at public entrances
- Failure to repair entryways and locks
- Lack of working video surveillance
- Poor lighting
- Insufficient staff for the size of the property
Keep in mind that there have been cases where security companies provided the best of services, but people were still shot. In cases such as these, there would likely be no lawsuit.
Limitations and Caps
Although you can sue the county government for damages after being shot, important limits and caps apply.
Statutes of Limitations
For one, there is a statute of limitations of three years for injury claims against government agencies in Florida. When the claim is wrongful death, the claim must be filed within two years. Additionally, claims can only be filed after the government has been given 180 days to investigate and respond to the incident.
There is also a statute of limitations for claims against non-governmental parties. That time limit is two years for personal injury and wrongful death cases.
Lawsuits against the county have damage caps of $200,000 and $300,000 per incident. Unfortunately, this cap means a gunshot victim or multiple gunshot victims with losses exceeding these limits would be left without substantial compensation.
However, there are no limits on compensatory damages against security companies. For this reason, one of the first things your attorney will find out in your shooting case is whether the county hired a contract security company. If it did, your lawyer will sue the company along with the county.
A Premises Liability Lawyer Can Help
If you or someone you know has been injured by gunfire at a government housing property, let SteinLaw review your case. You may be entitled to significant compensation. Call for a free consultation.