Nightclub Injury Attorney Los Angeles
One of the many entertainments residing and living in Los Angeles, California, is the thriving nightlife and bars that characterizes this heavily populated metropolitan area. Individuals enjoy this environment because they can spend an entire evening dancing, dining, drinking, mingling with friends and just having a pleasurable time in general. They go to nightclubs expecting to have a good time and escape the pressures and stress of their weekly schedules.
However, what they don’t expect is that they may be caught in the middle of a dangerous situation and risk serious injuries due to that result. Unfortunately, the reality is that a number of individuals have experienced minor to severe injuries when they are merely innocent bystanders who are minding their own business and socializing with their friends. These situations and the injuries that can result are oftentimes extremely traumatizing as well. If you have recently experienced a nightclub injury in Los Angeles and feel the nightclub is at fault, you should contact a skilled Los Angeles personal injury attorney who focuses on this area of California personal injury law at 1-424-256-9055.
Duties of Nightclubs and Bar Owner
Nightclubs and bars are obligated to owe a special duty of care to their patrons because of the nature of the business they conduct. People in such settings are consuming alcohol, often too much, the owners of these establishments are fully aware of the dangerous conditions which are inherent to intoxicated patrons who may become emotionally charged, angry and even violent. Innocent bystanders may be injured in a bar fight.
Law Firm Protecting Your Rights: Our night club injury lawyers are proud to represent victims who have suffered serious injuries due to the negligent conduct of owners and staff of nightclubs bars and other establishments.
Injuries in College Parties: University and College Dorm room parties and Frat House parties held close to schools by fraternities have led to many alcohol-related injuries, such as slip and falls, fights, beatings, and Security Guard Culpability.
Lack of Proper Safety Procedures: Oftentimes, there are inadequate security guards on staff to maintain peace and order, as well as a lack of proper safety guidelines in the buildings. There may be no exit signals or open exit doors during business hours, both of which are a major cause of nightclub-related injuries and damages.
Assaults by Employees Including Security Guards: While security staff is intended to bring peace and safety to nightclubs, they often add to the hostility instead. Bouncers and security often escalate an already dangerous situation, and the venue should be held liable for the actions of the hired help.
Some bars and nightclubs are quiet places where no one ever raises their voice and fights are unheard of, but others unfortunately are hotbeds for arguments and fights night after night. What if you are attacked in a bar or nightclub or what if you accidentally get hit by a fist or a thrown bottle? Who is liable? Is the bar or nightclub liable to you? How does premises liability law cover these situations? This article addresses these issues.
Nightclub Liability for Your Injuries – Know Your Rights
Let’s get one thing out of the way first. Assuming that you did not start the fight or that the fight was not an agreed upon fight (which the law calls “mutual affray”), the person who attacked you is going to be liable to you under intentional tort principles. However, because people who start fights in bars may not have any money or insurance, it may not be worth your while to sue your attacker for the assault, and you might want to focus your energy on suing the bar or nightclub.
In regards to security, a patron who has been battered and assaulted either by other patrons or by the business’s security guards has the right to file a claim against the property owner and the business for his injuries in the nightclub based on California’s Premises Liability laws.
In order to recover from nightclub injury, a victim has the burden of proving that the property owner created a dangerous or unreasonable condition on the premises. So, to be held legally responsible for injuries, one of the following must be true:
The property owner caused the dangerous condition that led to the incident, or failed to properly maintain the property.
The Property owner is aware of the dangerous condition of his or her property, but does nothing to remedy to problem
Most commonly, a reasonable property owner should have known of the dangerous condition because a reasonably prudent person would have noticed and fixed it.
Rules for Security: Security guards and doormen or bouncers in clubs, bars, and lounges are not given the right under California law to restrain you in a physical fashion. They are not able to beat you up or use other forms of force against you. If force has been used against you and you have suffered injuries, the security guard and his employer, as well as the property owner, may be culpable for your loss.
Establishing Responsibility Against the Property Owner or Employer Via Vicarious Liability Laws: Another avenue of recovery is based on the legal theory of vicarious liability, which holds that “if a servant performs an act within the real or apparent scope of his master’s business, then the master will be held liable for any damage caused by the agent against another party.” The primary emphasis here is whether the actions of the security guard resulting in the harm suffered were within the scope of his employment.
Defining course and scope of employment: There can be many ways to show that the actions of the at-fault guard were under the scope of course of his employment. One way is his actual profession. A security guard is generally hired by a club, bar, concert, or any other nighttime establishment to maintain peace and order in the property. It would be reasonable to ascertain that applying force in order to remove an individual from the premises to stop an impending altercation is necessary. An example where vicarious liability would not be applied is if the security guard attacked another individual on the premises for self-interests. For example, if the victim owed the guard money and he had refused to pay, the guard would be acting outside of his scope of employment if he attacked the victim.
Liability against Employer: Based on Negligent Hiring Practices: Another avenue for establishing fault is by showing that the employer failed to diligently check the background and mental health of the employee prior to the commencement of his employment. Workers who are given instruments and tools and or have the duty to exert physical force must undergo a heightened level of scrutiny before being hired. Thus, the capacity to inflict harm on another resulted in a heightened duty on the part of the employer to hire a person who will not overstep his boundaries. This should include background checks for past criminal activity and rigorous mental health examinations.
Liability Based on Dangerous Instrumentality: The basis of this theory of liability against the employer holds that the owner of a weapon or any dangerous instruments should be held accountable for any harm resulting from their use in a negligent fashion. For example, in a case where the gun of a private security guard goes off in the middle of a dance club, resulting in injury to another, the employer who provided the gun to the security office would be held responsible.
Common Bar Fight and Inadequate Security Injuries:
Bar fight injuries can range from minor cuts and bruises to serious catastrophic injuries, which may lead to lifelong disability and death. Here are some of the most common nightclub injuries.
Permanent Brain Damage resulting from Head Trauma
Scalp Lacerations leading to hemorrhaging of the epidermis
Broken and Fractured Facial Bones, including the eye socket, nose, cheekbone, and hairline fractures of the lower jaw
Loss of Eyesight
Burn Injuries from Night Club Fires
Broken Arms and Legs
Internal organ injuries – ruptured spleen, collapsed lungs, bowel obstruction, and damage to the liver.
Tinnitus, which is chronic ringing in the ear, resulting in damage to the inner ear
Fractured Neck, leading to Spinal Cord Injury and Permanent Paraplegia or Quadriplegia
PTSD: Post Traumatic Stress, Depression, and other mental and psychological strains
Psychological Damage: Perhaps the most under-reported and under-evaluated injuries resulting from acts of violent crimes are the mental injuries arising from the incident. Violent crimes are almost always traumatizing, resulting in long-standing mental health issues, which may range from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to depression, anxiety, the triggering of bipolar disorder, and drug abuse. Victims of violent crimes should seek help from a mental health therapist so that their injuries are properly documented for the purposes of any settlement or jury verdicts.
Brain Injuries: One of the most common injuries resulting from acts of violence is trauma sustained to the head, resulting in brain damage. Brain injuries can range from mild concussions to severe traumatic brain injuries. Some signs of brain injury can include loss of consciousness following the attack, short term memory loss, sensitivity to light, changes or alteration in behavior, and loss of cognitive abilities. Victims of brain injury need to be evaluated by a neurologist as soon as possible.
General Premises Liability Law: Negligence
A claim against a bar or nightclub for damages resulting from a fight or assault is a standard personal injury case, which means that it is a negligence case. The one exception is, as described above, if the fight was an agreed upon fight, or mutual affray, in which case the bar is generally not going to be negligent.
In order to win a case against a nightclub, you have to prove that the nightclub was negligent, and that its negligence was a cause of your injury. But how do you do that, assuming that it was another patron who assaulted you?
Claims against bars or nightclubs in fight cases usually involve an intoxicated assailant and so will usually involve the bar’s security and alcohol service policies. All bars have a duty to act reasonably to provide necessary security for their customers, and all bars have a duty not to serve intoxicated customers.
With respect to security, a bar must provide whatever security is reasonably necessary, based on the circumstances. A bar that caters primarily to senior citizens having a drink before attending the theater doesn't need any security. No one is going to start a fight in that type of bar. But a bar that is known (or notorious) for fights, arguments, and drug use in the bathrooms needs far stricter security measures. For example, reasonable security in such a bar might include things like serving drinks only in plastic cups (to prevent thrown bottles or bottles broken over someone’s head), having multiple bouncers, hiring an off-duty policeman to monitor the bar, and/or firmly securing the tables and chairs to the floor.
With respect to alcohol use, a bar or nightclub has a duty (under dram shop laws) to closely monitor its patrons to make sure that it does not serve alcohol to intoxicated customers. A dram shop law is the legal term for a law having to do with lawsuits arising out of injuries caused by people who bought alcoholic drinks at bars or restaurants. If someone gets drunk and attacks you at a bar or even on the street, you might have a dram shop case against that bar or nightclub.
State or Municipal Law
If a bar violates a state or local law, that violation could lead to liability against the bar. If, for example, the bar serves underage customers, stays open after closing hours, or has a happy hour two-for-one drink special in a state that prohibits happy hours, those types of violations will help the injured patron in a lawsuit against the bar.
Investigating And Prosecuting Nightclub Fight Cases
As in any personal injury case, there are things that you can do immediately after the incident that will help your case immensely, assuming you are in a condition to do them.
If you were attacked in a bar, you must report the incident to the management of the bar immediately. Although failure to immediately report the injury does not legally bar you from filing a claim or lawsuit, you should not wait. Insurers (and juries) often question the legitimacy of an accident claim that was not reported at least by the next day. You should also do your best to get the names and contact information of any witnesses to the fight or to your assailant’s behavior before the fight, i.e., how much was he drinking, etc. People may not want to cooperate, but witnesses can be critical in a bar fight case.
Nightclub and bar owners are required to train their staff in recognizing patrons who are becoming overly intoxicated and to stop serving them alcohol. Despite this duty, all too often bartenders continue to serve highly intoxicated patrons in order to boost sales and continue receiving tips. The duty to stop serving a drunken customer is at odds with the fact that many customers tip bartenders more as they become more and more drunk.
Once a customer becomes drunk their behavior becomes completely unpredictable. Their demeanor may shift from happy and friendly to hostile and dangerous on nothing more than a misunderstood statement from anther patron. There have been instances where a drunken patron was simply bumped by an innocent customer, took the accidental bump as a threat and literally stabbed the innocent customer to death on the dance floor.
Who Are The Responsible Parties?
In most instances, when a fight breaks out, you are at high risk of being injured, especially if you are in close proximity to the altercation. In most cases, one or a combination of the following individuals will either be the cause of your injuries and/or be responsible for them:
Bouncers and other security personnel
Busing staff members
Waiters and waitresses
As a bystander, you can get drawn into the altercation and injured when bouncers or security personnel attempt to break up the fight or move it outdoors. As a result, you could be hit, kicked, punched, or shoved in the process and incur injuries that can range from only minor to extremely severe.
Nightclub & Bar Security
Nightclub and bar owners hire security staff to prevent such incidents but often do not hire adequate security to police the entire establishment. The failure to hire sufficient security staff is usually financially based for the owner. Maximum occupancy limits only permit so many people, including staff, to be present in the building and a paying customer is more enticing to the owner than a paid “bouncer”, for obvious reasons. Additionally, many clubs do not actually count the number of persons in the establishment at any given moment, which can result in overcrowding.
Overcrowding & Fire Safety
Overcrowding results in an entirely new set of dangerous conditions. Maximum occupancy limits are established not simply for the comfort of the guests. They are established by the fire department fore safety reasons. If an establishment is overcrowded and an emergency such as a fire or explosion occurs, it may be impossible for people to exit the building safely and quickly. Many people have died because of such situations and some of those tragedies have received national attention in recent years.
Nightclubs with a History of Violence
Whether you have a potential lawsuit against the nightclub owner or the individual/employee who committed the assault and battery will depend on various facts in your case.
Factors to be considered when filing nightclub assault litigation include:
Were you attacked in a poorly lit area of the bar?
How many times have police been called out to this nightclub?
Did the establishment serve alcohol to your attacker when he/she was plainly intoxicated?
Did the nightclub have an adequate number of bouncers or security personnel to protect patrons?
Were there obvious measures the owner could have taken to prevent your injury?
Bars and nightclubs with a track record of violent brawls are more likely to be held liable for injuries incurred in future assaults, since owners should have been aware of the risks posed to patrons. Depending on the circumstance of your case, you may have a civil claim against your assailant, the bar owner or other property owner, or you may press criminal charges for assault and battery.
A nightclub assault has the potential to ruin a person’s life – physically, emotionally and financially.
If you have been a victim and need assistance getting your life back on track, contact the attorneys at Ellis Law. Rest assured, we work on a contingency fee basis, meaning we only get paid after you recover compensation. Our personal injury lawyers have attained dozens of favorable verdicts and settlements for clients who have been attacked in nightclubs and bars throughout the greater Los Angeles area.
What can you do?
If you or a loved one have been injured or killed in a nightclub/bar incident, you need the help of an attorney with experience in litigating such cases. The interplay between state and local fire safety codes, Alcohol Beverage Control regulations, premises liability and general theories of negligence are complex and require a great deal of technical analysis and expertise in all of those areas.
Punitive Damage Compensation
Under our Common Law system of jurisprudence, victims of intentional and or reckless conduct are entitled to punitive damages compensation. Common law requires the individual or entity to have acted in a reprehensible manner. The purpose of punitive damages is not to provide for just recovery or damages suffered by victims. Instead, it is a means of punishing the at-fault party to such an extent so that they will refrain from partaking in intentionally harmful conduct on the future. Historically, punitive damages were boundless so that a potential jury could award an unlimited level of financial recovery to the victim. However, the past decade has seen certain limitations as to the amount of money that can be awarded under punitive damage provisions. Various court decisions and Supreme Court rulings have placed the limit at 10 times the value of a victim’s actual damage. For example, if a jury awards $10,000 in actual damages, then the limit for that amount of punitive damages is set at $1,000,000. However, some court decisions have wavered from the 10-times ration. In the case of State Farm v. Mutual Auto Insurance the court stated that “when the compensatory damages are substantial, then a lesser ratio, perhaps only equal to the compensatory damages, can reach the outermost limit of due process guarantee.” In many cases, a defendant will use the above-mentioned argument to seek an appeal on the monetary level of punitive damages that can be awarded, which can result in a lower judgment from an appellate court. However, some court decisions have established that the level of punitive damages awarded should be based on the reprehensibility of the defendant’s actions. Thus the facts of the case can, in some cases, play an integral part in the level of punitive damages which can be awarded.
For example: Security guard uses a baton to strike a person in the back of the head multiple times. The victim who was in a bar had not posed a threat to any other individual at the establishment prior to the violent action of the security guard. This would be considered to sustain a higher level of moral reprehensibility and would likely garner a higher award for punitive damages.
Factors which can play a role in determining reprehensibility include – the type of weapon used to commit the crime, how long the battery lasted, how many punches or strikes with a baton were inflicted, the size of the security guard with respect to the harmed victim, the sex of the victim versus the body guard, the number of individual employees and body guards involved in the attack against the individual harmed.
Time Limits to Filing a Lawsuit – Statute of Limitations
In the state of California, civil claims must be filed within a certain time period in the court of law. Victims of assault and battery injuries have two years from the date of the incident to file a personal injury claim. Failure to file a claim within the statutorily designated time period will eliminate a victim’s right to financial recovery under the law. However, in certain circumstances, courts may grant the filing of a claim despite the passing of a two-year deadline. Referred to as a tolling of a statute, below are some examples where courts have allowed victims the right to pursue a lawsuit even when the statutory time period has elapsed.
Age of the victim: Individuals under the age of 18 have two years from the date of their 18th birthday to file a complaint in the court of law.
Mental incapacity: Where the individual has been rendered mentally incapacitated. Under California law mental incapacitation refers to a person who does not have the ability to manage his or her own affair and make rational decisions.
Physical Incapacity: Due to the injuries suffered the individual is unable to file a claim in a timely period.
Time of war or victim in the Military during time of war.
We Fight To Recover Your Remedies
Based on the specifications of your case - the details of the accident, how severe your injury was, it is ultimately going to determine what you could be entitled to sustain based on your case. However, what you can be compensated for if your case prevails can often be put into several different categories.
The categories of compensation can include:
Medical bills: Should you win your case, you could be awarded compensation for medical bills you’ve had to pay as a result of your injury. This includes both past and future bills stemming from the injury, and can potentially cover expenses such as transport or in-home rehabilitation services.
Lost wages: Lost wages can be awarded if your injury has caused significant missed time at work, or has made you unable to perform your job. You could be entitled to even more lost wages if the injury leaves you permanently disabled and unable to find consistent work.
Pain and suffering: In some cases, the damages endured from physical pain and emotional suffering can be compensated to pay for therapy treatments.
Punitive damages: Punitive damages are awarded in more extreme cases, wherein the injury was caused by someone’s recklessness. They are awarded to try and dissuade the defendant and others from acting with that level of recklessness again.
You Don’t Pay Until You Win.
Contact a Los Angeles Nightclub Injury Accident lawyer in Los Angeles to schedule a free, no obligation initial case evaluation at 1-424-256-9055. Our Bar Injury Accident in Los Angeles will help protect your rights. And remember, You Don’t Pay until You Win, or You Don’t Pay At All!
Lawyer Referral Service
If you are in a need a Los Angeles Nightclub Accident lawyer to help you get appropriate compensation and medical care you deserve, you should contact an auto accident lawyer today. Our experienced Bar Injury lawyers in Los Angeles will help you overcome your Nightclub Accident injury or damage.
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