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Unprovoked Attacks in DC Provide Reminder of Need to Ensure Your Safety, Understand Your Rights

By Dan Hausman

A major stabbing occurred on 14th and U Street around noon on Saturday, the 5th. This stabbing occurred a few blocks from the deadly unprovoked stabbing of a runner in Logan Circle that made national headlines last September and a few blocks from the hammer attack in October.

I returned to the D.C. area after living in Chicago for six years and moved into the Logan Circle neighborhood in September. When I last lived in the D.C. area about ten years ago I would have never have thought to have made the Logan Circle area my home. However, the neighborhood has undergone great change since I left and attracted me as a neighborhood that is vibrant, flourishing, and safe.

These attacks show that any preconceived notions one has about a location’s safety need to be reimagined. No matter where you are, you must be fully aware of your surroundings to do your best to prevent tragedy. While I won’t engage in a discussion about our society’s failures to adequately address mental health issues for many of the nation’s most vulnerable here, I will offer some tips to best protect yourself from catastrophe:

  • Travel in a group or with someone else
  • Let someone else know where you are going, how long it will take, and when you will check back in
  • For runners, always dress to be seen —headlamps, reflective vests, or lights on your shoes.
  • Fully charge your cellphone. This can help you or a fellow citizen.
  • Carry a whistle, key chains, or alarm, that trigger noise and light to frighten an attacker. Remember, Weapons could be turned against you. Think very carefully before making something like pepper spray part of your plan.
  • Vary routes and be cognizant of patterns. Potential attackers may choose targets based on familiarity.
  • Pay attention to your surroundings. Do not be engaged in your cellphone when walking around. Take one of your ear pieces out when listening to music or talking on the phone so you can hear what is going on around you.

I really hope you take the practical advice above to heart. As an attorney, I also want to discuss some of the legal aspects of an attack for those that are seeking compensation. Firstly, the attacker themselves can be held liable in the civil judicial system and could be ordered by a court to pay money to make up for the damages they are responsible for. However, the attackers are often “judgment proof,” meaning that they do not have assets that make it worthwhile to bring a lawsuit against them.

The inquiry of whether victims of an attack can receive compensation does not end after only looking at the attacker. The inquiry becomes much more nuanced when the question is whether actors including the police, health care providers, and premises owners are liable for damages to a victim. While these groups are generally not liable for the criminal acts of others because the law considers them as having no legal duty to warn or protect the victims, the actors can have engaged in certain activities where they have created a relationship with the victim or took steps to make the victim safe to create a situation where the duty to warn or protect the victim attaches.

Unprovoked attacks are not the only type of attack that can be the basis of a potential case. Other forms of attack such as a dog bite, a fight at a bar or nightclub with another patron or a bouncer, or a fight during a sporting event can all potentially be compensable. For an in-depth discussion about any type of violent attack you can contact the attorneys at Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. If you potentially have a case, or just have some question, we are always happy to talk to you about your options. Please call (202) 644-8303 or contact us online for a FREE consultation.