As one of the worst heat waves since the Stone Age drags on, many New Yorkers are aware of possible ill effects like heat wave dehydration and heat stroke.
But did you know that heat waves also increase the number of violent assaults?
Extreme high temperatures are the most deadly form of weather in the United States.
Heat waves kill more people than tornadoes and hurricanes combined.
Dehydration is a concern as temperatures rise.
At the risk of sounding improper, if your urine is colored or bubbly, you are probably dehydrated, regardless of volume.
Heat stroke is an even more serious effect, and it is also much harder to detect.
When body temperature rises above 104, which is just a few degrees above normal, many people experience “cramping and dizziness,” according to Northwestern University Emergency Medicine Professor Dr. Scott Dresden.
These individuals need to get out of the heat and hydrate.
“Other, more serious symptoms are if somebody actually passes out or collapses from the heat,” he added.
These individuals need medical attention.
If they do not receive medical treatment, extreme heat stroke victims may experience organ shutdown or death.
Forecasters predict that the New York City weather pattern may change by the end of July and the beginning of August.
The Link Between High Temperatures and Violent Assaults
A long series of scientific studies confirm that this connection is real.
In fact, a 2015 Spanish study concluded that high temperatures fueled a 7.7 percent increase in violent assaults.
While New York City personal injury attorneys are powerless against the weather, they can successfully handle a claim for compensation following an assault.
The relationship is easy to explain, according to most researchers.
Heat makes people cranky.
That uncomfortableness colors every experience.
Minor insults suddenly become major insults which demand an aggressive, or even a violent, response.
Another remarkable study focused on the relationship between high temperatures and HBP (Hit By Pitch) incidents in Major League Baseball.
A team of researchers examined the issue and concluded that “the probability of a pitcher hitting a batter increases sharply at high temperatures when more of the pitcher’s teammates have been hit by the opposing team earlier in the game.”
All this research probably originated with a 1984 study which connected high temperatures and aggressive driving.
One researcher intentionally sat through an entire 12-second green light in Phoenix, and other researchers measured motorists’ responses.
“Results indicated a direct linear increase in horn honking with increasing temperature.
Stronger results were obtained by examining only those subjects who had their windows rolled down (and presumably did not have air conditioners operating),” they concluded.
Holding Property Owners Liable for Assaults
Muggings, rapes, murders, barroom fights, and other such incidents often cause unbelievable suffering for victims and their families.
The medical bills are often very high, and these expenses often pale in comparison to the extreme pain and suffering these individuals must endure.
If the incident occurs in a place outside one’s own home, like a parking lot or a party, the property owner may be liable for these damages.
Establishing liability is usually a three-step process.
First, the property owner must owe a legal duty to the victim.
Like most other states, New York law is based on a common law classification system which divides victims into:
- Invitees (people with direct or indirect permission to be on the land and who provide a direct or indirect benefit to the owner),
- Licensees (permission but no benefit), and
- Trespassers (no benefit and no duty).
Most property assault victims are invitees.
Examples include shoppers, even if they do not buy anything, and party guests, even if the host does not particularly like the guest.
In these situations, the owner has a duty of reasonable care. That’s the highest duty in New York law.
Other victims are licensees.
The guest of a hotel guest is probably a licensee, and is a child who cuts across a parking lot on the way home from school.
If the victim was in this category, the owner had a duty to warn about latent (hidden) defects, like a burned-out security light.
If the victim was a trespasser, the owner generally had no duty of care.
Second, the victim-plaintiff must prove the owner knew about a dangerous property condition which caused the injury.
Some common dangers in the assault context include the aforementioned burned-out security light, as well as inadequate overall security.
Evidence of knowledge may be either:
- Direct: Unpaid repair invoices and government inspection reports are two examples of “smoking gun” direct evidence.
- Circumstantial: If there is no direct evidence of actual knowledge, victim-plaintiffs may use the time-notice rule to establish constructive knowledge (should have known).
The time-notice rule is a bit like a banana peel on the floor.
If the peel was yellow, it probably just fell, so the owner had no duty to pick it up.
But if the peel was black, it had been on the floor for a while, and constructive knowledge attaches.
Third, the assault must be foreseeable.
In other words, the circumstances must indicate that an assault was likely.
Evidence of foreseeability includes:
- Prior assaults at that location,
- Excessively hot weather,
- Large gatherings of people at one location,
- A location in a dangerous neighborhood, and
- Recent assaults at nearby places.
In court, victim-plaintiffs must establish all three of these elements by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not).
The damages in premises liability assault cases usually include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.
When heat rises, tempers flare, people get hurt, and landowners are responsible.
For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in New York, contact Napoli Shkolnik, PLLC.
We do not charge upfront legal fees in negligence cases.