One of the worst things that can happen after an unfortunate security incident is a wrongful death suit. This response occurs frequently in the security industry following a tragedy, as people seek to place blame or find recompense. The more high-profile an incident is, or the harder it is to explain a security guard’s actions, the more likely a wrongful death suit is.
You can easily find examples of large wrongful death suits, such as the lawsuits following the death of Banko Brown at a Walgreens. The details of these cases can vary, but they are also difficult for both family members and security workers involved in the incident. Here’s what your security firm should know.
Wrongful Death Suit Definition
A wrongful death lawsuit seeks damage after a death occurs. These suits claim that someone was responsible for causing the death. That could be someone behaving in a negligent manner, or someone’s actions directly causing a death. Both can apply to security guards. For example, a lawsuit may claim that a security guard failed to help someone seriously injured, which later led to their death. Or a lawsuit may allege that a guard’s actions directly caused someone’s death, such as shooting them with a firearm.
If the lawsuit successfully shows that a security guard was responsible for a death in ways like these, the court will typically award claimants a certain amount of money based on what happened. In other cases, the suit may lead to a settlement to end the case early, which still involves payment but avoids a court decision.
Damages Sought in a Wrongful Death Suit
In the case of a death, the victim can’t pursue a wrongful death suit themselves. In this case, the family or estate hires an attorney and files the suit. These types of lawsuits specify the damages done as part of the death. That can include expenses involved in emergency care or trying to treat the victim. It may cite lost wages or pain and suffering resulting from grief over the death. Many suits also include the costs of funerals, burials, and related bills. Suits may also mention emotional distress suffered by the victim and family members when seeking a certain amount.
Why Wrongful Death Lawsuits Target Security Firms
Wrongful death lawsuits may target specific security guards involved in a fatality. It’s a risk of working in the security field, which security guards should always try to mitigate with proper behavior. However, these lawsuits also often target the security firm itself.
Security firms may not be directly responsible for a security guard’s actions and may not feel a guard acted properly or was representing the security firm at the time of the death. However, the firm made the decision to hire the guard and chose them for their particular role. That links the firm to the resulting fatality with at least some liability. How much firms are liable for depends on the details of the specific event, what arguments are made in court, and what the court ultimately decides. This can create painful, ongoing expenses for security firms, which is one reason they try to quickly seek a settlement compatible with their insurance.
Finally, remember that lawsuits like these often target as many entities as possible to seek results. In the Banko Brown case mentioned above, the family sued the security guard, the security firm, and Walgreens. This is not an uncommon approach.
Proving a Wrongful Death Suit in Civil Court
A civil court is not the same as a criminal court. In a criminal court, charges like manslaughter may be brought by prosecutors who believe that someone broke the law in their actions. If this is the case, then the evidence needs to be very clear in order to convict, and the definition of crimes can be very strict.
Civil court works differently. In a wrongful death suit, the goal isn’t necessary to prove that a law was broken (although this may strengthen a case), but to prove that evidence shows someone was at fault. That’s a lower bar compared to a criminal case, which means fines may be more likely regardless of other charges.
Coverage for Related Wrongful Death Lawsuits
Wrongful death lawsuits are covered under general liability insurance for security firms*. This type of insurance covers court expenses and payouts up to a certain amount, which can save a firm from going bankrupt if it runs into a large lawsuit.
General liability insurance may not cover security guards personally (the details can vary a little depending on the state and other circumstances). However, firms typically have the option to add insurance that will specifically cover lawsuits targeting guards, or security guards may choose to pay for their own liability insurance plan.
For further questions on how liability insurance works and what an insurance package looks like for a security firm, contact us and we’ll be happy to help.
Your firm can lower the risk of fatalities on the job by ensuring guards are properly trained and equipped. If a wrongful death lawsuit does occur, proper liability insurance should help the security firm pay for associated costs, although it’s always a good idea to consult with an experienced attorney about the best way to proceed*.
*Coverage for claims is not guaranteed. Please refer to your specific policy language for details or speak with your agent.