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Nightclub Injury Lawyer
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Services Offered by a Washington DC Nightclub Injury Lawyer
Our DC nightclub injury lawyers have been practicing law in D.C. for nearly 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 common 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 difficult case, yet still potentially worthwhile. As with any other injury case, it is important to consult with an experienced nightclub injury lawyer to determine whether your case is worth pursuing.
To clarify, 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 difficult 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 do 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 in close proximity. 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. To make a prima facie argument for battery, you must prove three elements. First, we must prove there is an act by the defendant, the person who hit you, which brings harmful or offensive contact to you, the plaintiff. Second, we must show intent on the part of the defendant to bring about the harmful or offensive contact. Third, we must prove both legal and actual causation.
Of course, there are plenty of legal technicalities that go into each element. The key to remember is that, for it to be a battery, the act must have been intentional. If it was not intentional, you may still have a claim, but it will likely be under a negligence cause of action. The intentional act should also cause you harm to have a claim worth pursuing. While technically any harmful or offensive contact constitutes a battery, it is not pursuing if the only thing the contact does is make you upset. 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. In some cases, there is nothing the bar’s security can do to prevent a fight. However, there are instances in which injuries occur due to complete chaos inside a bar. Bouncers have a duty to keep the peace inside their establishment. If a scene in the bar or nightclub erupts into complete 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 on here is that the bar or nightclub has a duty to protect patrons from foreseeable harms. But even if the chaos is not immediately foreseeable, it should have sufficient security to be able 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. If they metal detectors outside the club, and the tortfeasor brings his knife through without being caught, the club is negligent. 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 it is another patron who injures you, we can still name the club as a responsible party. This is important because a club is likely to have a larger insurance policy to cover your injuries.
Assault by a Bouncer
Our DC nightclub injury lawyers handle these cases frequently. Everyone has encountered a bouncer who is overly aggressive. Just like above, a battery from a bouncer requires three elements for a viable claim. There must be an act which brings 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. He or she also is 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 smaller in physical stature.
When pursuing a valid battery claim against a bouncer, you may be able to name the bar as a defendant too. 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 because 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 friction is generated by the employment such as by a bill collector, and when force is authorized in the employment, such as a bouncer. In the case of a bouncer, force is authorized as he is expected to remove disorderly patrons. Accordingly, nightclubs need to be particularly careful when hiring bouncers because, if it 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 of these has the potential to be a viable personal injury claim. But 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. We calculate compensation in a nightclub injury case the same we do most other personal injury cases. To calculate the full range of damages you have a rightful claim to, we consider economic and noneconomic damages. Economic damages are those that are quantifiable. Accordingly, the monetary compensation you receive for these damages are exactly the same as the injury you suffered. For example, if you suffer $18,000 in economic damages, you should receive $18,000 in economic damages. Of course, this requires high level legal work from a DC nightclub injury lawyer.
The two most common examples of economic damages are medical expenses and lost wages. Of course, you do not necessarily receive full compensation for all of 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 not exceedingly difficult 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 is 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 absolutely recover for it. An example of property damage for a nightclub injury might be clothes that are destroyed or a cell phone. The way to calculate property damage, in general, is to evaluate the reasonable cost of repair. Or, if irreparable, to receive compensation for the market value at the time it breaks.
This is most commonly known as pain and suffering. Unlike the damages above, pain and suffering is not as easily quantifiable. Some insurance companies for the 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 in which your injury has affected your life since the battery. Accordingly, we calculate this harm on a case-by-case basis. We find that the best way to calculate it is to ask our client a series of questions that may bring to mind ways in which 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 damages. Of course, this too is 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, for behavior that involves malice, you may obtain up to nine times what the compensatory damages are.
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 certain sets of facts do 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. Thus, we recommend you reach out to our office to discuss your options.
Steps Victims Should Take to Protect Your Rights
Perhaps the most important part of this, at least at the early stages, is to preserve 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 that they know or should know is relevant to the case.
Most commonly in these cases, the relevant evidence is video surveillance footage. This footage can be vital for a case and the bar knows that. Thus, they might be under a legal duty to preserve the footage whether they receive a letter from an attorney or not. 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 for access to the security footage and build your case.
It is also beneficial to obtain contact information of witnesses. They do not necessarily have to participate in trial. In fact, most cases do not go to trial at all. However, if we can get a statement from a witness, it 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 build the strongest case possible. When you are the injured party, this includes collecting as much evidence as possible.
If police arrive to the scene the night of your injury, they may create a police report. You can elect to pick up a copy of this from the police station. Or, we can obtain it via mail on your behalf. A police narrative can be valuable as well. They generally do a good job of collecting contact information. This includes witness information and statements. While there may be hearsay issues barring admissibility of some of these statements, some may be permissible. Regardless, it gives us an idea of which witnesses may be useful to testify at trial if 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 anywhere else in the region. The list below also does not have necessarily have a tendency to be more negligent than bars or nightclubs not on the list. Rather, it is a list of 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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