If you have been injured in a fall that occurred while you were on someone else’s property, your ability to recover fair compensation for that injury will ultimately depend upon your ability to demonstrate that some negligence on the part of the owner/occupier either caused or contributed to causing your fall. If so, you may be entitled to recover compensation for your medical costs, lost income, pain and suffering and other damages related to the slip and fall.
One example of negligence that often arises in premises liability cases in Atlanta and surrounding areas is the failure to provide proper, safe lighting.
How Does Inadequate Lighting Cause Slip and Falls?
The lighting at a commercial or residential property can become a hazard in two significant ways:
- Making an otherwise safe property dangerous – When lighting is inadequate, it can cause visitors to trip, slip or fall by concealing conditions that are not hazardous in and of themselves, and could be safely negotiated with ease under appropriate lighting conditions. In these situations, the inadequate lighting would be the hazardous condition that caused the harm. For example, due to the darkness, a visitor may fail to see a curb in a parking lot, or a step up or step down along a walkway.
- Masking existing hazardous conditions – Inadequate lighting can be especially dangerous when it serves to conceal the presence of hazardous defects already existing on a property. For example, if a foreign substance has been spilled on the floor, while that would be considered a hazardous condition even when fully illuminated, it becomes doubly hazardous when obscured by darkness.
Inadequate lighting conditions can arise as a result of design flaws in how a property was configured or laid out. A parking lot or the common area of an apartment complex, for example, may lack any flood lights or light poles entirely, or may have been built with an inadequate number of light sources.
Inadequate lighting may also result from negligent maintenance by the owner/occupier in failing to replace light bulbs when they burn out, or failing to repair damaged light fixtures.
In some cases, a slip and fall may occur because the person or entity in control of the premises failed to rope off a poorly lit area until the problem was resolved. As a general rule, it is always advisable to try to avoid hazardous conditions wherever possible. Consider, for example, a motel guest who rents a second floor room at a motel that has stairs at either end of the building that provide access to the second floor. If the light has burned out in one of the two stairwells, and the guest decides to use those stairs anyway, knowing full well that there is an alternative fully lit stairwell he could use at the far end of the building, the owner/occupier would not be liable for that injury, because by choosing to use the unlit stairwell, even when he knew an alternate path with adequate lighting was available, the guest assumed the risk of his injury. However, if there are no alternative paths available, the fact that the guest is aware of a hazard will not absolve the owner / operator of liability because under those circumstances, the risk would not have been voluntarily assumed.
What Should You Do If You Slip and Fall Due to Poor Lighting?
If you have been hurt in a slip and fall due to poor lighting, it will be important to get immediate medical attention. A fall due to poor lighting can cause serious injuries, including traumatic brain injury, spinal damage, fractures and soft tissue injury such as torn knee ligaments.
You should also gather and preserve as much evidence from the accident scene as possible. For instance, you should take photos of anything that you might have tripped over or slipped on. If you are trying to take photographs to document the lighting conditions in the area of your fall, always check to make sure your camera’s flash is turned off first. Finally, always make sure you get the contact information of any eyewitnesses to your fall.
Filing an accident or incident report with the owner or occupier of the property can be important as well because it ensures that the owner occupier will have a record of your fall. It is important to note that many businesses may refuse to provide a copy of such incident reports, even when you were responsible for filling out the form in the first place. To avoid this problem, remember to snap a picture of the completed form before you turn it in.
Although filling out incident reports can be a tedious, time-consuming process, keep in mind that you are not only protecting yourself by taking the time to make a report, but others as well. By filing your report, you are creating a record of the fact that owner/occupier has been notified of the hazardous condition existing on the premises, which will help to protect future customers as well. Likewise, an investigation of your case may reveal that several slip and falls have been reported due to the same lighting problem – but the property owner or occupier failed to take action in order to make the premises safe.
Get Help from an Atlanta Slip and Fall Attorney
The sooner you get in touch with an experienced Atlanta slip and fall lawyer at James M. Poe, P.C., the sooner we can begin an investigation of your case – including examining whether negligent lighting caused your incident. You can count on us to make sure your rights are protected and that all options available to you for seeking just compensation are fully explored and pursued. Contact us today for a free consultation.