We have said it before and we will say it again, do thorough research when choosing a security company! Far too often companies think that by simply having security, they are protected from lawsuits and thus free from liability. Or a step further, if there is ever a lawsuit involving their onsite security guard, the security company (that employs the guard) is liable, right? Not always.
Here is an example:
Even in a situation where a perpetrator enters a restricted area on your property while firing rounds, and then the security guard shoots back, a really good plaintiff attorney can argue that the security officer made things worse or caused further damages — and win.
Attorneys are hired to do one thing, protect their client and they do so by shining a light on loopholes. In this particular scenario, the plaintiff attorney may be able to find loopholes such as:
- Maybe the security guard recently went through a traumatic experience while on duty and should have been taking time off
- Perhaps the guards training was minimal
- Maybe the guard is not licensed (not all states require licensing)
If their argument is convincing enough, the perpetrator will not be liable. So now the liability could be placed on the security officer, the security company, or YOUR company! How? Thanks to the term, “vicarious liability”, the fault and liability can fall on the shoulders of the company who hired the security firm. And we see this happen often.
Definition of vicarious liability according to Law.com
“Attachment of responsibility to a person for harm or damages caused by another person in either a negligence lawsuit or criminal prosecution. Thus, an employer of an employee who injures someone through negligence while in the scope of employment (doing work for the employer) is vicariously liable for damages to the injured person. In most states a participant in a crime (like a hold-up) may be vicariously liable for murder if another member of the group shoots and kills a shopkeeper or policeman.”
Ultimately, this means that negligent party’s mistakes (the security company’s mistake) can be passed on to the client (your company).
How can you prevent this?
Ultimately, there is no way to eliminate liability risk. However, there are a few proactive measures that you can take in order to help.
When a scenario involving a perpetrator and a security guard having to use weapons in order to protect their post makes it to court, these questions are always considered:
- What was the security guard’s involvement in the shooting?
- What led to the shooting?
- What measures did the security guard take to prevent the shooting?
- Was the guard licensed?
- Was a guard adequately trained?
- Does the guard have any disciplinary issues? If so, when?
- Is this a first time issue or has it happened before?
In reality, a good security company will do everything they can to place the best guards in situations they can handle. Therefore, If any of the above questions lead a jury or judge to deem the security officer at fault, then the security firm has failed to do their job. At which point the liability will move to the security firm and ultimately land on your company! (Again, thanks to vicarious liability!)
When hiring a security firm, do YOUR due diligence! Take your time researching the best firms and what questions to ask. Learn about their hiring process. Ask some of their clients how situations are handled. And make sure to document your conversations and why you made your decision.
How will this help? Well, the entire situation may be avoidable with a great security guard! But if it were to make it to court, it would be hard for any attorney to place the blame on your company as you did your due diligence.
When it comes to security, there is no way to eliminate liability. But we have found that taking a more proactive stance when researching best candidates, providing training, and offering emotional support when or if that is needed, is very beneficial.
So do yourself a favor, really do your research (and document it) when hiring a security firm. If anything were to happen, you can prove that you made your best judgement.
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