My Family Member Was Shot And Killed In An Apartment Complex In Florida And The Killer Was Never Caught. Now What?
by Jason Turchin
Nearly every day in the news we hear about someone getting shot and killed in an apartment complex in Florida. Even more heartbreaking, is when the killer is never found, leaving the family seemingly without any means of pursuing justice for their loved one’s death.
So what could a family do if their loved one is shot to death in an apartment complex?
Remember that there may be two separate cases: the criminal case and the civil case. Most often, families focus on the criminal investigation. It is usually a frustrating process because the police are seeking to arrest a criminal for committing a crime against the state of Florida. They are not necessarily concerned about the rights of the victim. A victim in a criminal case is often looked at as a witness as opposed to an actual party to the case. If the police have no leads, they may not aggressively pursue the case at all. That may leave the family feeling helpless as if there are no other options. But there are.
The criminal case
Part of the criminal investigation seeks to preserve evidence necessary to prove that a murder took place. The police may look for physical evidence, may take witness statements, may review the surveillance video, 911 tapes, and other recordings. They may look at the crime scene photographs, and autopsy report. They may look at bullet casings, clothing, and any other evidence at the scene. They often try to pinpoint who the murderer was, and try to bring them to justice through a criminal proceeding.
Once a person is arrested, the state attorney generally takes over the handling of the matter. Their job is to pursue the criminal case against the perpetrator with the goal of putting them in prison. They may also seek restitution for the victim’s family, but restitution is often quite limited and inadequate.
When it comes to restitution in a criminal case, think about how any money will actually get paid. If the criminal is put in prison for the rest of his or her life, they may have no money at all to pay the victim’s family for any out-of-pocket losses.
If the criminal is never caught, despite the police investigation, it may leave the victim’s family feeling helpless. There may be other options, however, whether the criminal is arrested or not.
Figuring out how the crime occurred and whether it was foreseeable or preventable
From a Florida crime victim’s rights perspective, we see the criminal investigation as merely one aspect of the big picture of the crime occurrence. In addition to pursuing justice, families often want answers. Why did the crime occur? Why was the victim chosen? How could the crime have occurred where it did? Could anything have been done to prevent the crime from occurring? Was the crime foreseeable? These are some of the questions that a crime victim’s rights attorney seeks answers for.
Real life examples of Florida apartment killing victim civil claim
A young man in his 20s was shot to death in the parking lot of an apartment complex in Miami, Florida. The apartment complex is partially gated, and has no security officers on-site. There were CCTV cameras, but they were not working at the time of the shooting. The police investigated the shooting, took photographs, took witness statements, but had no leads. To date, they’ve never located the shooter.
When we get a shooting death case in a Miami apartment complex in a negligent security claim, we try to throw as wide of a net as possible to investigate the circumstances of the crime. One step we take is to determine whether or not there was insurance coverage taken out by the owners or property managers of the apartment complex. Often times, many apartment building owners have liability insurance in case somebody gets hurt or killed on their property and they are found to be negligent. In addition to liability coverage, there may also be medical payment coverage which would help pay for medical expenses incurred as a result of the shooting.
We also conduct a very thorough investigation of the crime. Many times our investigation goes even further than the criminal investigation. We try to obtain 911 tapes, crime scene photographs, the autopsy report, any medical records, fire rescue reports, police reports, witness statements, and any surveillance video.
We look to see whether the apartment complex owner, property manager, maintenance, or security company contributed in anyway to the person’s murder. Many crimes, particularly in high crime areas, may be preventable or foreseeable. When apartment owners, property managers, maintenance companies, or security companies know that crime may be likely on the property and fail to take adequate steps to prevent such a crime from occurring on their property, the court may find them legally responsible to pay for the person’s death.
When looking to see whether the crime was foreseeable or preventable, there are several things we may look into. We may pull the registration file of the property from the state of Florida’s business regulation department. We may request all zoning and property records on the property, including elevator maintenance records, code enforcement records, police call records, and any other licensing records. We may pull copies of every police report of prior violent crimes on or near the property, or crime grids of the surrounding area of the property.
If a lawsuit is filed against the property owner, property manager, maintenance company or security company in Florida, there are also several pieces of information we may request from them. We may request policies, procedures or manuals related to security on the property. We may look into budgets to see how much money was actually allocated to security versus other things on the property. We may consider background checks on all employees who were working at the time of the incident, and into their qualifications. We may look at the structural set up of the property and building to see what steps, if any, the apartment complex may have taken to provide security. We may look at other prior crimes on the property that the apartment building owner was aware of.
Each case is unique, and we try to tailor our requests and investigation to each particular case. Our goal is to get answers for the family, and hold all businesses who could have prevented the crime from occurring responsible for the wrongful death of the victim.
What can a victim’s family recover in a Florida apartment shooting death case?
In a civil case, the goal is to compensate the family for the loss of their loved one. We understand the no money in the world can ever bring the victim back, and the case itself is not just about money. However, when dealing with insurance companies in inadequate security or negligent security cases, the insurance company’s goal is to try to resolve the case if they believe that their insured was negligent.
When someone dies in an apartment complex shooting in Florida, it generally falls under Florida’s Wrongful Death Act to determine what claims may be made, who may make the claims, and who may be entitled to compensation.
One of our goals is to change the community. By holding apartment complex owners responsible for the wrongful death of one of their tenants or guests, we hope that in the future they will take the necessary security steps to prevent anybody else from getting hurt there. We are tired of absentee apartment complex owners taking hard-earned money for rent every month in lower income apartments, while failing to protect the safety of those very tenants that help keep those buildings alive.
The more these apartment owners are found responsible for failing to protect their tenants, the more responsible we hope they will be. When we file negligent security cases against apartment complexes in Florida, it forces their insurance company to evaluate the safety of the property. It also allows us to do our own independent assessment of the apartment complex’s security.
Putting the apartment complex on notice
Once you put the apartment complex on formal notice of a security claim, they may be forced to take more action to provide for the safety of its residents. If they fail to, they could be held responsible for any future crime which occurs on the property.
Insurance on apartment complexes in Florida
Most apartment complexes in Florida have at least $1,000,000 in liability insurance. This insurance is intended to pay the victim’s family if the apartment complex is found to be negligent in causing or contributing to the victim’s death, up to the policy limit. In addition to liability insurance, many Florida apartment complexes also carry medical payment coverage. This insurance generally pays medical expenses up to the policy limit regardless of whether the apartment complex was at fault. This coverage generally applies to guests of tenants in the apartment complex.
Orlando apartment complex shooting attorney
We recently worked with another law firm in Florida and resolved an Orlando apartment complex shooting case for $1 million. That was the policy limit for the apartment complex. The man lived in the apartment complex and was shot by an unknown person who fled the scene after the shooting. To date, he has never been found. Despite the fact that the criminal case has never been resolved, the man’s children were able to still bring a claim for negligence security against the apartment complex. After proving that the crime was foreseeable and preventable, and the apartment complex contributed to the crime, their insurance company took responsibility and compensated the victim’s family.
In the criminal case, a victim’s family often has little control. In the civil claim, the victim’s family is the one who actually brings the claim and has some control over how the case may progress. They also have much easier access to information, as they are the ones who hire the attorney to act on their behalf and can speak directly with their attorney to get the information.
As one of the goals of a crime victim’s rights case against an apartment complex is to get answers, the victim’s family may also be able to ask questions of the apartment complex through their attorney as deposition questions or other discovery means.
For more information on Florida apartment complex crimes and civil claims, please feel free to contact the Florida negligent security attorneys at the Law Offices of Jason Turchin at 800-337-7755 for a free consultation. Our Florida wrongful death lawyers can help answer questions about a possible civil claim.