A Bouncer Injured Me. Can I Sue?

Bouncers, or people hired to guard the door of a bar, club, or concert, make their living by refusing entry, checking legal age, and enforcing their employers’ rules. Occasionally, enforcement requires bouncers to physically remove people from the premises. However, unlike some jobs, not all states require background checks for hired bouncers.

If someone has a history of violent behavior, they could easily be employed as a doorman for an employer who never bothered to research their history. California is one of the only states that requires a background check, as all security guards and bouncers must be registered with the State of California Department of Consumer Affairs Bureau of Security and Investigative Services. They must also submit fingerprints to the California Department of Justice and the FBI. Lack of criminal history, however, is not always an indication of a cool head. While they’ve been imbued with some measure of authority, bouncers are only human and are subject to irrational decisions when confronted with a situation they are unprepared for.

What Are Bouncers Legally Able to Do?

To understand whether or not the bouncer or the bouncer’s employer is liable for your injury, it may help to know when bouncers are protected. In the course of their work, a bouncer is allowed to:

  • Refuse people entry
  • Check IDs
  • Give verbal warnings
  • Call the police
  • Ask someone to leave
  • Protect others from violence
  • Break up fights

If the bouncer participated in the “Skills Training Course for Security Guards” or another type of preparatory training, they are more likely to be protected under the law (assuming they followed proper precaution while performing their duties). For example, if a drunk man physically threatens a woman, a bouncer is protected under the law if he restrains the person.

What Are Bouncers Not Legally Protected from Doing?

At the same time, being a bouncer is not carte blanche for bullying behavior. While many doormen are hired for evenness in temper and excellent communication skills, some badly behaved bouncers slip through the cracks. If a bouncer does any of the following without provocation, they are liable for the injuries they caused:

  • Push someone
  • Punch someone
  • Physically throw a person out of an establishment
  • Restrain a person with chokeholds
  • Use weapons or pepper spray

Most of the time, bouncers tend to refrain from touching anyone. If they touch first, they might be considered liable for any injury that occurred. However, if a patron threatens to assault them first, they are protected under the law if they defend themselves or people around them. Let’s say a bar customer throws a punch at a bouncer. Whether or not that punch lands, the bouncer is then less liable for breaking that patron’s nose by hitting back. Any harm done in response to a threat is reasonable up to a certain point. If the person was knocked cold by the bouncer’s punch, the bouncer is then responsible for stepping away and calling the police. However, if the bouncer decides to kick the person, any resulting abdominal bruising or cracked ribs is the doorman’s fault.

If you feel a bouncer has exceeded the bounds of their job description, talk to one of our San Bernardino personal injury lawyer. Our attorneys can discuss the case with you and collect evidence of the assault on your behalf. Contact us at (909) 764-3335 or fill out our online form for a free case consultation.


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