Nightclub bouncers and security do not have any special authority or rights. Many people believe that nightclub bouncers and security have special authority or rights to remove people from the property, use physical force, or beat people up. This is absolutely not true. Unlike what you may have seen in movies, nightclub bouncers do not have the right to use physical means against you.

In most situations, nightclub bouncers are considered normal employees. In the majority of nightclubs, bouncers are not actual “security personnel.” Security personnel are special employees who must have special training and permits. In almost all nightclubs, bouncers do not have this special training or permits, so they do not have any special authority. The authority of a bouncer is the same as any other normal citizen. Bouncers do not have the right to physically remove a customer who is drunk, being annoying, or who they do not like.

Many people are surprised to learn that under the law, a bouncer can only ask you to leave the property or premises. If you refuse to leave, they must call the police in order to have you removed. Like an average person on the street, a bouncer does not have the right to physically assault you. However, a bouncer who just places a hand on your back to show you towards the door, has probably not committed any crime.

Like any other citizen, bouncers do have the right to exercise self-defense. Bouncers can also detain you if you are committing a crime, sometimes called a citizen’s arrest. If they detain you, they can only use what is called “reasonable restraint.”  Reasonable restraint means that the way they detain you, and the amount of time,  must be reasonable. For example, if you refuse to leave the nightclub then punch a bouncer, he or she can likely claim self defense if they punch you back.   

What Remedies Do I Have  if I Am Assaulted by a Nightclub Bouncer / Security?

Even though the law says that a bouncer does not have more authority than any other person, it may be difficult to prove that you were assaulted in the real world. Since bouncers know they are allowed to defend themselves, if there is a fight, they will likely say that you started it to avoid responsibility. Also, most nightclubs have multiple bouncers and other co-employees who will act as witnesses and try to protect each other. 

All of these things make proving assault more difficult. If you are ever in an altercation with a bouncer, you should remember to be careful about what you say or do (for example shoving, spitting or getting into their face), because they will likely use this as an excuse to attack you and say that you started the incident.  

If your case involves a fight that is extremely uneven (for example, a large number of bouncers beating you up really badly), then you will likely have a legal case against them. A lot of bouncers do not get a lot of training and might be using very dangerous techniques without knowing it. Sitting on you or handcuffing you face down against the floor, are known to cause possible suffocation, and are very dangerous techniques that bouncers should not be using.

Bouncers can be held legally responsible for claims of assault and battery, including both civil and criminal actions. 

  • Assault means the threat of violence or attempted violence against you.
  • Battery means the actual physical violence or contact with you.

It is possible to bring either a civil or criminal action for assault and battery.

  • A civil action is a private lawsuit, where you  sue an individual  to collect damages for any injuries you received.
  • A criminal action is when  the government prosecutes a person, and it can lead to criminal penalties (such as probation or jail time).

Who Is Legally Responsible if I Am Assaulted by a Nightclub Bouncer / Security?

This can be a complicated issue in court. If a nightclub bouncer physical harms you, they can be legally responsible for your injuries. However, the average bouncer may not have a lot of money, so you may not be able to collect a lot of money from them. If you bring a lawsuit, it is a good idea to also sue the employer (i.e. the nightclub).

Under employment liability law, an employer is generally legally responsible only for an employee’s actions if they were negligent. This does not include intentional or willful assault or battery by an employee.  The employer can be found legally responsible only if the bouncer was acting with the scope of his duty (i.e. work responsibilities) when they attacked you. For example, if the bouncer was following directions from his boss when they hurt you, you may be able to sue the employer. However, if the bouncer was just acting on their own, holding the employer responsible may not be possible. 

If you sue a nightclub, it is important to remember that any money you try to collect will likely come from their insurance. Most nightclubs have insurance policies that they will use to pay for any possible legal responsibility. However, nightclub insurance almost always includes an “assault and battery” section that says that the insurance company will not pay for willful assault by an employee. The insurance company will try to argue that they do not have to pay because the bouncer’s actions were intentional or willful not negligent. The difference between willful and negligent actions can be very complicated. So, it is recommended that you have a lawyer help you with your case.

Should I Hire an Attorney if I Am Assaulted by a Nightclub Bouncer / Security?

It is a good idea to immediately talk to a personal injury attorney  who will know the best way to handle your case. A lawyer can look at the facts in your specific case. The specific details of your case will determine whether you will be able to receive money to pay for your injuries. Therefore, it is important that you have an attorney who is experienced and familiar with these kinds of cases.