Assault & Battery

Assault and battery is one of the most important coverages for any business in the nightlife industry. Almost 30% of all claims for bars and taverns are classified as assault or battery.

Defense costs alone can exceed $100k.
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The Basics

There are two main differences between assault and battery; the actual presence of harm and the threat of harm. Someone can only be charged with battery if they have caused real physical harm to someone, while a person can be charged with assault if the mere threat of harm is present. There are 3 main types of occurrences that could result in an assault and battery claim.

Premises Liability and Claims Against Bars and Nightclubs

A nightclub may be liable for guest injuries on the property caused by a bar employee's negligence. An important element in any negligence claim is causation. An injured bar patron must prove that the nightclub caused the harm or injury. It must be foreseeable to the nightclub that its actions or failure to act could cause injuries to its guests. Causation can relieve the nightclub of liability in many situations. An intoxicated person may simply fall on the dance floor and suffer a concussion and a broken wrist. The nightclub did not cause this injury and is therefore not liable. There are some injuries that cannot be avoided or prevented with safety measures and precautions.

The last and most easily provable element of a premises liability claim is damages. The term "damages" simply means the injury or harm suffered by the plaintiff in a lawsuit. The person suing the nightclub must prove that he or she was harmed or injured. Where a nightclub is found liable, the injured person may recover damages including medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering and mental anguish.

Assaults by Bar Employees

Bar security personnel, or "bouncers," do not have any special immunity from assault claims. An assault is the intentional act of putting another person in fear of or apprehension of an imminent physical contact or bodily injury. For example, a bouncer may push a bar patron in the chest. The assault occurs when the bar patron sees the bouncer approach and extend his arms to push. The actual physical contact is battery. Naturally, assault and battery claims are often grouped together, whether as a criminal charge (brought by a government prosecutor) or a civil action (brought by the victim in a personal lawsuit).

In most cases, a bouncer is treated as an ordinary citizen. A bouncer cannot make physical contact with a bar patron in most situations. Where a patron is becoming unruly, the bouncer must first ask that person to leave. If the person refuses, the nightclub should call the police. However, if an intoxicated person attempts to punch or otherwise make physical contact, the bouncer may engage in self-defense. The bouncer may also use physical force when a patron is committing a crime or hurting another patron. Just like any other person, the bouncer may defend and protect other persons from physical attacks.

Negligent Security

A bouncer can be found liable for assault. However, as previously mentioned above, the bouncer may not be financially able to compensate the injured person. In those cases, the injured person may sue the nightclub for negligent security or negligent hiring. While the nightclub is generally not liable for the actual assault by a bouncer, an injured person may have a valid claim based on negligence. For example, the actual victim may claim that the nightclub was negligent for not conducting a criminal background check of its employees. Liability may also be found where a nightclub did not employ enough security personnel under the circumstances, and some form of preventable harm occurred.

Not having the proper assault and battery limits can be detrimental to a business. With most policies having defense cost inside your limits, it’s important to speak with a specialist and make sure you have enough coverage to cover you properly.

In short, assault & battery is a complex coverage that is becoming harder and harder to procure, but with a proper insurance broker, you can effectively get the correct coverage for your risk.

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