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Nightclub Injury Lawyer
Services Offered by a Washington DC Nightclub Injury Lawyer
Our DC nightclub injury lawyers have been practicing law in D.C. for over 70 years. Nightclub injury laws, and in particular the law regarding bouncers at clubs, are unique. Of course, an injury from a bouncer is not the only potential injury in a nightclub. Just as standard are slip and fall injuries as well as assaults and batteries by other patrons, slip and fall cases can be trickier because the plaintiff may be drinking. Given that Washington, DC is a contributory negligence jurisdiction, a slip and fall may be a more complex case, yet still potentially worthwhile. Like any other injury case, consulting with an experienced nightclub injury lawyer is essential to determine whether your case is worth pursuing.
To ensure you know, contributory negligence, which is applicable in DC, Maryland, and Virginia is a rule that bars recovery for the plaintiff if you are even 1% negligent for the injury. This is a rule that favors defendants, and there are only five jurisdictions in the United States that follow it. It can be challenging to convince a jury that you were not even 1% negligent if you are drinking at a nightclub. Even though the burden is technically on the defense to prove this affirmative defense, it may be a losing battle. Of course, you may not be drunk at all, or the facts of the case may be particularly egregious that you have a viable claim. Below, we will discuss the best and generally most successful claims against nightclubs in DC.
Assault by a Patron
The law for battery against another patron at a nightclub is the same as outside a nightclub. The difference is it is far more likely to occur when you visit a club. When you visit a nightclub, strangers are often nearby. Perhaps most significantly, there is plenty of alcohol to heighten emotions. When you contact a nightclub accident lawyer, this is the legal argument for your case. You must prove three elements to make a prima facie argument for battery. First, we must prove there was an act by the defendant who hit you which brought harmful or offensive contact to you, the plaintiff. Second, we must show intent on the part of the defendant to perform harmful or offensive contact. Third, we must prove both legal and actual causation.
Of course, plenty of legal technicalities go into each element. The key to remember is that the act must have been intentional for it to be a battery. You may still have a claim if it was not intentional, but it will likely be under a negligence cause of action. The deliberate act should also cause harm to have a claim worth pursuing. While technically, any harmful or offensive contact constitutes battery, it is not pursued if the contact only upsets you. A strong battery case has physical damages that lead to some injury. Contact our DC nightclub injury lawyers if you believe you may have a case. Our consultations are always free.
Suing the Club for a Patron’s Conduct
In addition to naming the person who assaults you as a defendant, we can also sue the bar. Sometimes, the bar’s security can do nothing to prevent a fight. However, there are instances in which injuries occur due to complete chaos inside a bar. Bouncers must keep the peace inside their establishment. If a bar or nightclub scene erupts into chaos, there is an argument to be made that it is a breach of the duty owed to their patrons. The rule to key in here is that the bar or nightclub must protect patrons from foreseeable harm. But even if the chaos is not immediately foreseeable, it should have sufficient security to get the crowd under control within a reasonable time. What a reasonable time is hinges on what a jury decides.
An additional scenario is when a bar or nightclub has metal detectors. We handle cases where the bar seemingly is not negligent. But then, a tortfeasor walks into the club and stabs our client. The club is negligent if metal detectors are outside the club, and the tortfeasor brings his knife through without being caught. But for the club’s negligence, our client would not have been stabbed.
Moreover, it is foreseeable that a person walking into a club with a knife might stab someone inside. This is the causation element of your claim. That is precisely what a metal detector is there to protect against.
The club has metal detectors to protect patrons from weapons. Thus, even though another patron injures you, we can still name the club a responsible party. This is important because a club will likely have a more extensive insurance policy to cover your injuries.
Assault by a Bouncer
Our DC nightclub injury lawyers handle these cases frequently. Everyone has encountered an overly aggressive bouncer. Like above, a bouncer’s battery requires three elements for a viable claim. An act must bring harmful or offensive contact, intent, and causation. But when a bouncer causes a battery, it can be more serious. First, security at a nightclub is in a position of power. They also are presumably sober while you may be inebriated, making you more vulnerable to violence.
Moreover, this person is meant to keep the peace and minimize chaos, not create it. A bouncer’s job description includes the potential to be physical with patrons. This makes it particularly frightening for a person who is likely more diminutive in stature.
You may also name the bar as a defendant when pursuing a valid battery claim against a bouncer. The first defendant is the bouncer in his or her personal capacity. But the second, potentially more lucrative defendant is the bar. The doctrine of respondeat superior holds an employer vicariously liable for tortious acts committed by her employee within the scope of the employment relationship. In general, an intentional act such as a battery is not within the scope of employment. For example, if a dentist’s assistant assaults and batters you, you cannot hold the dentist’s office vicariously liable. The reason is that it is not in the course and scope of the dental assistant’s duties to act with force.
However, there are exceptions to this general rule our DC nightclub injury lawyers encounter. The three classic cases are when an employee is furthering the business of the employer, when the employment generates friction, such as by a bill collector, and when force is authorized in the scope of employment, such as a bouncer. In the case of a bouncer, force is authorized as he is expected to remove disorderly patrons. Accordingly, nightclubs must be careful when hiring bouncers because if it is a negligent hire or the bouncer otherwise breaks the law, the bar or nightclub is ultimately responsible.
Common Injuries at a Bar or Nightclub
At a bar or nightclub where many are intoxicated and thus less coordinated, it is a recipe for disaster. When there is alcohol, people make bad decisions. And even if it is not a decision but merely an accident, accidents are more likely to occur with alcohol. While the cause of action for the list below may vary, each can potentially be a viable personal injury claim. However, different claims involve different investigations and legal processes.
Once you prove the bouncer is at fault and vicarious liability via the doctrine of respondeat superior, you may introduce compensation. Like most personal injury cases, we calculate compensation in a nightclub injury case. To calculate the full range of damages, you have a rightful claim to consider economic and noneconomic damages. Economic damages are those that are quantifiable. So then, your compensation for these damages is precisely the same as your injury. For example, if you suffer $18,000 in economic damages, you should receive $18,000. Of course, this requires high-level legal work from a DC nightclub injury lawyer.
Medical expenses and lost wages are the two most common forms of economic damage. Of course, you do not necessarily receive total compensation for your medical expenses. We must prove that your medical expenses are reasonable based on your injuries and that the treatment is related to your accident. While relatively easy to do, we must have sufficient evidence to prove this beyond a preponderance of the evidence. Additionally, you may miss time from work due to your injuries. Or, even worse, you may be completely unable to work due to your injuries. This happens frequently with jobs requiring physical labor.
While a smaller category in the context of a bar or nightclub injury, it does fall into the category of economic damages, and you can recover for it. An example of property damage for a nightclub injury might be destroyed clothes or a cell phone. In general, the way to calculate property damage is to consider the reasonable repair cost. Or, if irreparable, to receive compensation for the market value when it breaks.
This is most commonly known as pain and suffering. Different from the damages above, pain and suffering are more easily quantifiable. Some insurance companies for bars and nightclubs use a formula to calculate the pain and suffering. However, we know that each case is unique. You may have some particular way your injury has affected your life since the battery. Accordingly, we calculate this harm on a case-by-case basis. The best way to figure it out is to ask our client questions that may bring to mind how the injury affects you. These damages are compensable.
So far, in this section on compensation, we have covered compensatory damages. These are damages that you are receiving in compensation for your injuries. The other category is punitive damages. These are not available to plaintiffs in the majority of cases. However, an assault or battery in a bar or nightclub likely triggers this form of damage. Of course, this, too, is on a case-by-case basis and requires consultation with a DC nightclub injury lawyer. Punitive damages are to punish defendants for particularly egregious behavior. They can substantially increase the value of your recovery. For example, you may obtain up to nine times the compensatory damages for behavior involving malice.
So, if you get $100,000 in compensatory damages, you may be entitled to an additional $900,000 in punitive damages. This is on the high end of what is possible, but specific facts allow it. The District of Columbia, Maryland, and the other states in the United States have different standards for punitive damages and who may recover them. So, we recommend that you contact our office to talk about your options.
Steps Victims Should Take to Protect Your Rights
In the early stages, the most essential part is preserving evidence. Once you hire legal counsel, we will immediately send a spoliation of evidence letter to the bar or nightclub. This letter prevents a defendant from destroying evidence they know or should know is relevant to the case.
Most commonly, the relevant evidence is video surveillance footage in these cases. The bar knows that this footage can be vital for a case. Thus, they might be legally obliged to preserve the footage if they receive a letter from an attorney. Some bars delete their security footage every 24 hours. Some do not record it at all. The sooner you reach out to an attorney, the better your chances are of preserving that crucial evidence. Beyond the ever-important spoliation letter, we can subpoena the bar to access the security footage and build your case.
It is also beneficial to obtain the contact information of witnesses. They do not necessarily have to participate in the trial. Most cases do not go to trial at all. However, getting a statement from a witness can assist in settlement negotiations or some other form of ADR. While we may be able to build your case based on your testimony and whatever other evidence we can collect, we want to make the most robust case possible. When you are the injured party, this includes gathering as much evidence as possible.
If police arrive at the scene the night of your injury, they may create a police report. You can pick up a copy of this from the police station. Or, we can get it through the mail for you. A police narrative can be valuable as well. They generally do an excellent job of collecting contact information. This includes witness information and statements. While there may be hearsay issues barring the admissibility of some of these statements, some may be permissible. Regardless, it gives us an idea of which witnesses may be helpful to testify at trial if we get to that stage.
Where Nightclub Injuries Commonly Occur
Below is not an exhaustive list. A nightclub or bar injury can occur anywhere in D.C. or the region. The list below also does not necessarily tend to be more negligent than bars or nightclubs not on the list. Instead, it lists the most popular bars and nightclubs where nightclub injuries may occur.
Black Cat DC
Smith’s Olde Bar
Power Plant Live!
Contact a Seasoned DC Nightclub Injury Lawyer
Nightclub assault lawyer Roger K. Gelb and his team have been handling personal injury cases in Washington, DC, and Maryland since 1954. Contact us today for a free consultation to discuss your nightclub injury case.
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