In the wake of the tragic mass shooting at a Las Vegas music festival last week, victims, loved ones, and the public are left with countless questions. While many of these questions relate to the motivation of the shooter and the condition of our society, some are more practical. Those who have been injured or lost loved ones, in particular, may be starting to think about their next steps.
Although money isn’t anyone’s first concern after a devastating event, the hard reality is that those who have been seriously injured or lost loved ones may find themselves in need of compensation to move forward. U.S. News & World Reports estimated that the initial medical costs associated with the shooting could range from $2.6 million to $48 million. Another source quoted in the article estimated total losses over time at $600 million. And, a Johns Hopkins study found that the average inpatient cost for a gunshot wound victim was more than $115,000.
What Happened in Vegas?
Although we may never understand why Stephen Paddock carefully planned and executed the largest mass shooting in modern history, we know that Paddock checked into a hotel room at Mandalay Bay on September 28. Over the course of his stay, he moved more than 20 guns and ammunition into the room, which had a clear view of the site of the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival. Authorities would later discover calculations regarding the distance and trajectory from the room to the festival crowd.
A few minutes after 10 p.m. on October 1, Paddock broke out the windows of his hotel room and opened fire on the concert crowd. Paddock killed 58 people and injured more than 500 others before taking his own life.
Who is Responsible for the Vegas Shooting?
Of course, the man who planned and carried out the attack on concertgoers is legally and morally responsible for the injuries, loss of life, property damage and trauma that ensued. However, there are other, less obvious parties who may share some of that responsibility.
Liability of the Vegas Shooter
The most direct and easily provable liability after a shooting or other act of violence typically lies with the perpetrator of the attack. However, victims of violence rarely receive significant compensation from their attackers. The reason is simple: those perpetrating violence are often without the resources to compensate their victims. In many cases, the attacker will be in jail after the event. In large-scale attacks like the one that occurred in Vegas, it is not unusual for the attacker to end his own life or to be killed by police.
Even when the perpetrator is alive and not incarcerated, his resources are frequently limited. While a victim or someone who lost a loved one in the incident might be able to win a judgment against the attacker, it may be impossible to collect the judgment.
While details have not yet been revealed, the Vegas shooting may prove an exception to this general rule. Paddock’s brother has referred to the shooter as a multi-millionaire, suggesting that there may be resources in his estate to compensate some injury victims and survivors of those killed in the attack. However, as the numbers above indicate, it is unlikely that even a multi-millionaire will leave behind sufficient assets to cover all of the loss of life, injury, and property damage he caused.
Potential Liability of the Music Venue and Promoter
When people are injured or killed at a music venue, the venue itself, the promoter, and others involved in the event may share some responsibility. In the days ahead, we will likely hear discussion and debate regarding whether the venue and/or organizers of the event were negligent in any way that may have impacted the scope and seriousness of the tragedy.
Some common examples not necessarily related to this event include inadequate security measures, failure to provide safe and clearly-market exit routes, allowing too many people into a tight space, or limiting movement in a way that might have slowed or stopped audience members attempting to flee.
Potential Liability of the Hotel
Obviously, management of the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino didn’t willingly host a mass murderer and provide him a vantage point for his crimes. Still, MGM Resorts, which owns Mandalay Bay and 12 other hotels on the strip, will likely be answering some hard questions in the coming days. For example:
• Does the hotel have a policy regarding firearms, and did it observe its own policies?
• Are hotel policies adequate to protect guests and others?
• Did hotel staff overlook or ignore danger signs with regard to Paddock, his room, or the contents of his room?
• Does the hotel have policies in place to take note of and act on suspicious behavior of guests or within the hotel and casino?
• Are those policies adequate, and were they appropriately followed?
At this stage, we do not know the answers to these questions, or whether the hotel bears any legal responsibility with regard to the shooting. Even if the hotel is discovered to have been negligent in some way, the company’s attorneys will likely argue that the management had no duty to concert attendees who were across the street at a venue on an unrelated piece of property.
Potential Liability of Gun Sellers and Manufacturers
Following a fatal shooting incident, especially a mass shooting, victims’ families sometimes pursue recovery from gun manufacturers, gun sellers, or manufacturers and providers of modification kits and other materials intended to enhance weapons, such as the bump stocks that have been widely discussed in the press.
It is reasonably arguable that a company that manufactures or sells certain types of weapons or enhancement tools knows or should know that providing these items puts the public at risk. Many also argue that some types of weapons and enhancements have no safe use or legitimate purpose. Thus far, however, the pursuit of claims against gun dealers and manufacturers under similar circumstances have generally not been successful.
Unanswered Questions Linger a Week after Vegas Shooting
A week after the event, many questions remain unanswered. Some, such as the reason an allegedly successful man in his sixties with no discernable ties to terrorist organizations would choose to shoot hundreds of strangers, may never be answered. The question of liability, however, will be determined through investigation, negotiation, and courtroom proceedings to help victims recover the compensation they need to rebuild their lives in the wake of serious injuries, lost income, loss of loved ones, and other damages.
Act Quickly to Protect Your Rights after a Traumatic Event
When you’ve been involved in a traumatic event like the Vegas shooting and have suffered injuries or lost a loved one, it’s natural that your focus should be on resting, recuperating, and attending to your medical care. Taking care of yourself and your loved ones should be your first priority. Remember, though, that securing adequate compensation to cover ongoing medical expenses and rehabilitation, replace lost income, and allow for any necessary accommodations is part of that process. An experienced personal injury lawyer can be your best resource.
If you have any questions about the horrific incident that occurred in Las Vegas, our staff at Yarian and Associates, APC are happy to speak to you to discuss and advise you of your options. Our consultations are completely FREE. We work on a contingency basis, which means you do not pay anything unless we are able to recover compensation for you or your loved one.