Can victims of a mass shooting event sue for compensation?

Depending on the facts of the case, people injured in a mass shooting event, or the family members of those who lost their life, could be eligible for financial compensation.

By a ‘mass shooting event’ we are talking about the nightmare scenario that we usually see from afar on news feeds and TV: an incident in which innocent people are wounded or killed by an active shooter. While most people see this from a distance, those affected are very real.

Characteristics of a Mass Shooting Event

These attacks occur in public settings: schools, nightclubs, shopping centers, concerts, houses of worship, workplaces, or any or any other location where groups of people – targets – are likely to congregate.

Although each terrible event is unique, research shows that perpetrators share common traits that vary depending on the type of activity where the attack occurs. For example, according to a comprehensive report prepared by the Violence Project and funded by the National Institute of Justice, school shooters are most commonly current or former students while workplace shooters tend to be males in their 40s employed in a blue-collar position who are having difficulties at work. Understanding shooter traits is essential in developing plans and procedures necessary to thwart such attacks.

According to the NFPA, an international standards organization, there were 277 active shooter events during the 18-year period from 2000-2018 resulting in 2,430 casualties including 884 deaths and 1,546 injuries. In other words, these attacks are highly foreseeable. They will continue to occur, and they will continue to follow patterns that are already known by law enforcement authorities, social scientists, and other experts who study past attacks and devise plans to prevent them from occurring in the future.

Can Businesses and Other Venues Reduce the Risk of Mass Shooting Events?

Because of the long history of mass shootings and the knowledge gained from studying them, there are effective ways to reduce the risk and severity of such attacks. That’s why people responsible for the safety of students, shoppers, workers, parishioners, concert-goers or other people in congregate settings must have effective plans in place that address the unique characteristics of the physical setting or event, the known traits of people likely to perpetrate opportunistic attacks, and employ methods and practices known to reduce or eliminate the risk of an incident occurring in such locales.

These plans are or should be based on best practices – standards – developed by experts.  They must also be evaluated, practiced and tested to make sure they work in times of crisis.  Fortunately, these standards already exist and have been available for years.

A list of standards dealing with prevention of mass shootings is located here.

The use of standards and quality systems to devise and implement safety plans is not unique to mass shootings. Virtually every enterprise that creates a risk of harm must have systems in place to prevent them from occurring. These include emergency operations plans (EOPs), standard operating plans (SOPs) and standard operating guidelines (SOGs), among other safety tools.

It’s also true that even the most sophisticated safety plan is useless if the people charged with following it are poorly trained, ill equipped, or simply ignore them.

Best Law Firm Pritzker HagemanHow Our Legal Team Evaluates a Mass Shooting Case

The lawyers at Pritzker Hageman have a tremendous amount of experience dealing with safety and quality systems, including violence prevention plans for mass shootings. We use these standards to systematically evaluate the conduct of the responsible entities including:

  • Whether safety plans exist
  • How and to what extent responsible parties knew of and followed accepted safety standards in formulating those plans
  • Training received by workers charged with enforcing the plans
  • Testing and evaluating the efficacy of the plans
  • Whether enough resources – money and manpower – were allocated to carry out the plans
  • How, if at all, the plans were followed before and during the attacks

The bottom line is this: injuries and deaths from mass shootings can be reduced and, in some cases, eliminated if appropriate safety plans are in place. Standards for these plans already exist. Landlords, employers, school officials, administrators, venue operators and other parties in charge of congregate events or locations must:

  • Retain appropriate security experts
  • Conduct vulnerability assessments of involved structures and facilities
  • Study and understand characteristics of likely perpetrators
  • Devise appropriate plans that take into consideration the unique characteristics of the building and/or event
  • Devote enough resources (money, time, training, etc.) to properly implement the plan
  • Create appropriate barriers and procedures designed to limit access by active shooters
  • Hire, retain and train appropriate staff to implement the plan
  • Use appropriate tools and methods to evaluate, test and modify the plan
  • Coordinate the plan with local law enforcement authorities
  • Keep abreast of expert knowledge and news affecting the plan and its utilization
  • Practice, update and modify the plan consistent with current events and threats

Unfortunately, and all too often, responsible parties fail to implement and follow standards and guidelines that are known to reduce the risk of injury and death caused by active shooters.

If you were injured or a loved one was killed in a mass shooting, it is important to know whether the attack could have been foiled if an appropriate safety plan was in place. Call, email or text the lawyers at Pritzker Hageman for a free consultation of fill out the form below and our attorneys will contact you.

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