Automated teller machines (or ATMs) are a regular part of daily banking activity in the United States. In fact, studies show that nearly 75 percent of American consumers regularly use ATMs as part of their everyday banking activities. When you withdraw cash from one of these machines, you probably wouldn't even consider the risk that you could suffer an injury, but ATM crime in the United States is not as unusual as you might think. If you or someone you love falls victim to an ATM crime, find out how you could file a personal injury lawsuit to get compensation for your injuries.
The risk of ATM crime
According to surveys conducted by American banking associations, there is one ATM crime for every 3.5 million transactions that takes place in the United States. Of course, the risk of ATM crime varies between states, cities and banks, but statistics show that you are not always as safe as you might expect when withdrawing cash from an ATM.
What's more, consumers are at risk of various types of ATM-related crime. Non-fatal ATM-related crimes can include rape, shooting, carjacking and kidnapping, all of which can result in life-changing injuries. So when would you file a personal injury lawsuit in these circumstances?
ATM crime and negligent or inadequate security
Banks and other organizations that install ATMs for customers obviously cannot control the behavior of opportunistic thieves. However, financial institutions have a responsibility to make sure their premises are as safe as possible, and this liability extends to customer ATMs.
Given the temptation that an ATM may offer to a potential thief, banks must take steps to discourage criminal activities, and there are various circumstances in which a court may decide that there was inadequate security in place. Examples include:
- A lack of working security cameras.
- Poor lighting.
- Problems with shrubbery, signage and other obstructions that could conceal a crime.
- Lack of security guards in high-risk areas.
If you are the victim of an ATM-related crime, you may have grounds to file a personal injury lawsuit if you can prove that the bank's premises were not safe enough.
The principles of premises liability
Premises liability holds property owners liable for accidents and injuries that take place on their property. This definition can include crime-related injuries if you can show that the crime occurred (or was more serious) as a result of the property owner's negligence. In the case of a crime that occurs while you use an ATM, state laws would generally protect you as an invitee because the bank or financial institution invites you to to use the machine. In doing so, the property owner must take reasonable steps to assure your safety while you use the ATM.
Some state laws afford consumers greater protection than others in premises liability cases, especially when it comes to ATM-related crime.
For example, in Florida, state laws say that financial institutions must install certain safety devices on ATMs. These include:
- Adequate lighting during darkness in parking and ATM access areas.
- Reflective mirrors on all ATMs, so you can see anyone suspicious behind you.
- A height limit of three feet on any shrubs or other features that could obstruct vision while you use the machine.
As such, if you live in a state like Florida, your attorney may find it relatively easy to prove premises liability if the ATM does not have these mandatory features. However, in other states, premises liability cases are sometimes more subjective.
Foreseeability is critical in negligent security premises liability cases, so you should also find out if similar crimes have already taken place. If other people have fallen victim to crimes when using this ATM, and the bank has failed to take any steps to improve security, you may find it easier to prove negligence.
If you suffer an injury as a result of an ATM-related crime, you may need to file a personal injury lawsuit to claim compensation. Talk to an experienced personal injury attorney like those at Dunnigan & Messier P.C. for more information.