Gated communities are popular throughout the United States, including here in Charleston, West Virginia. These exclusive neighborhoods boast less traffic, a stronger sense of community, amenities, and more security than even the most expensive areas not defined by a perimeter. If you are concerned about “what if I am attacked in my gated community,” you may be more vigilant with security than most folks.
Many people buy homes in gated communities primarily for the security of their home and family. Access into the community is supervised. Anyone entering must either be allowed in by a guard, a PIN code, or a card that gets them through the gate. Residents must notify the guard of any guests or deliveries. This means residents won’t get unexpected visitors because they will need to call ahead to the security system to let security know they are expecting someone. The idea of getting “attacked in my gated community” becomes less of an issue.
Unfortunately although security is one of the biggest benefits for buying in a gated community, it’s not a guarantee that you’ll be protected from crime. Determined criminals can manage to gain access to a gated community despite security measures.
Premises Liability Law
The word premises basically means a house or building occupied by an individual/family or a business. Premises Liability law is an area of law that deals with the owner’s legal responsibility for any injuries that were caused by some unsafe condition as a result of their negligence. Most people think of premises liability as the “slip and fall” kind of case. But when a gated community fails to keep your premises safe, premises liability also comes into play.
Property owners, managers, and homeowners associations (HOA) have a responsibility to keep premises safe and secure for all who live or visit. They are required to keep the property maintained including security gates, security systems, and fences or walls that block or deter unauthorized entry.
When someone is injured on their property, the responsible person or party can be held liable for injuries and damages sustained due to negligence.
Security under West Virginia’s premises liability laws, includes:
• Sufficient lighting
• Security (guards, police, restricted access)
• Stair railings
• Sidewalks and broken concrete
• Parking lot asphalt
Some examples might be if a gate is broken and allows unrestricted access, the HOA is responsible for repairing the gate immediately. Or if an access code is found to be widely distributed, it should be changed, and residents notified right away. The chances of being “attacked in my community” would increase if certain lapses on maintenance and surveillance were allowed.
Even when the gated community is in what most would consider a “low crime area,” violent crime is still a possibility. Despite the gates and the limits on access, a determined criminal can make their way into the community to commit one or more crimes. Residents should still exercise needed caution, such as locking doors, using camera surveillance devices, and securing valuables such as bicycles or cars.
It’s the responsibility of the HOA and/or the gated community to notify the homeowners and residents whenever there is criminal activity in the community or an increase in crime in the area. This puts residents on guard and the HOA can update or increase security appropriately.
The HOA for the gated community has many responsibilities for the area it serves. One of them is the safety of the homeowners and residents, which includes having adequate security for the community. Failing to provide adequate security—especially if it’s in the HOA bylaws—can be considered negligence. If this negligence leads to a physical attack on a resident then that is a big fail!
If You’re Attacked in Your Gated Community
Of course, the first thing is to get yourself safe, then check yourself for injuries. Then call 911 for police and request an ambulance, if needed. The police will open a criminal case and hopefully catch the attacker.
Document the incident by taking pictures of all injuries and the area where the attack occurred. If able, pay special attention to areas that may have facilitated entry by the attacker, such as a nonworking security light or open gate. This will help the police when writing their report, as well as notifying the HOA. You may also need the pictures if you file a claim with your homeowners and/or health insurance companies. You may also need to talk with a Charleston premises liability lawyer to learn about your legal options to sue or negotiate a compensatory package for medical bills, any long term disability or rehabilitation, or other related damages.
The Love Law Firm Can Help
If you’ve been attacked in a gated community or suffered any type of injury that may be due to negligence by the property owner/HOA, you may want to discuss your situation with experienced personal injury lawyer, Chad Love.
The Love Law Firm is a top Charleston, West Virginia’s personal injury law firm with extensive experience handling all kinds of premises liability cases. Call us today at 304-344-5683 or contact us online and schedule your free consultation. There’s no fee until we win your case, and our contingency fee arrangement means you won’t pay unless we win.