Property owners and occupiers in California owe a duty of care to their visitors. The specific duty of care depends on the visitor’s status and other factors, but under most circumstances, it involves ensuring the premises have adequate lighting to be reasonably safe, or at least warning visitors about inadequate lighting.
Catastrophic and even fatal injuries have been attributed to insufficient lighting. A person might fall down a staircase, for example, or trip over a door threshold. If the injured person can show that poor lighting contributed to their injury, they may be entitled to compensation for any resulting medical costs, lost income, pain and suffering, and other damages.
Read on to learn the answers to some FAQs about these claims:
1. What Constitutes “Inadequate” Lighting?
Property owners and occupiers are required to ensure their premises are reasonably safe for invitees. These are people who are on a premises for business dealings, such as a grocery store customer. Property owners must conduct inspections to identify dangerous conditions, and must either fix those conditions or post warnings about them.
When a person is a licensee, such as a social guest, there is no duty of inspection, but the property owner or occupier must warn the licensee about known dangerous conditions.
If a property does not have sufficient lighting in particular areas—such as on staircases and in parking lots—the property owner or occupier could be liable for any injuries or losses that visitors suffer as a result. This not only applies to trip and fall injuries but also to violent attacks.
Your case will be stronger if the property owner failed to adhere to lighting regulations. Your lawyer can perform an investigation to find out if that is the case.
2. How Can I Prove That Inadequate Lighting Contributed to My Injuries?
Besides establishing that the property had insufficient lighting, you must also prove that you actually suffered an injury or loss that would not have happened but for the inadequate lighting. Below are a few kinds of evidence your lawyer might use to prove these elements:
- Pictures: Photos that show the hazard that caused your injuries and the lighting system in question can paint a picture of how the accident happened.
- Surveillance Footage: Video recordings of the area and your accident may show how long the property had poor lighting and help your attorney tie the injuries to the incident.
- Eyewitness Deposition: Anyone who saw the accident or who was on the premises where it happened might provide deposition about the lighting in the area and the circumstances of your injury. Their deposition can be especially valuable if there is no surveillance footage and the property owner fixed the lighting promptly after the incident.
3. Who Might Be Liable for My Damages?
The answer to this question depends on the circumstances, but in most premises liability cases, the defendant is the property owner or occupier. This, however, is not always the case. There are several parties who could be liable for injuries caused by inadequate lighting, and sometimes multiple parties share fault.
Here are some of the parties who might be liable in these cases:
- The Property Owner or Occupier: We’ve already mentioned that the property owner must perform inspections and fix dangerous conditions, or warn invitees about them. Licensees must also be warned about known dangerous conditions. If the property owner was also responsible for maintaining the premises—i.e. they had not contracted this out to another party—they would most likely be liable for injuries and losses caused by negligent maintenance. If an employee of the property owner was tasked with maintaining the premises, the property owner could still be held liable through vicarious liability.
- A Property Manager: If a property management company was hired to maintain the premises, they might be liable for injuries caused by poor lighting.
- Another Party: Perhaps the property owner had hired a contractor to fix the lighting, but the job was done negligently. The contractor might be liable in this scenario.
4. What Evidence Might Be Used to Prove Damages?
All successful premises liability claims yield some about of compensatory damages. These are intended to compensate plaintiffs for their economic and non-economic losses. In California, the following compensatory damages might be available:
- Medical Bills: Emergency care, hospitalizations, and prescription medications are just some of the medical costs that might be recoverable.
- Lost Income: You can seek compensation for any wages you lost due to the tort.
- Other Economic Damages: Property repairs, domestic assistance, and other reasonably necessary costs might be recoverable.
- Non-Economic Damages: Pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment in life, and emotional distress can be some of the most tragic effects of a sudden injury. Fortunately, these non-economic losses can be factored into the settlement calculations.
In some cases, it is possible to obtain punitive damages in addition to compensatory damages. Judges only award punitive damages in cases that involve malice, oppression, or fraud. If the property owner tried to cover up evidence of negligence, punitive damages might be available. They might also be available if multiple parties had been injured due to negligent maintenance on the property yet despite those incidents the defendant failed to remedy the dangerous condition. If you were violently attacked in a poorly lit parking lot, punitive damages might be awarded against the assailant.
Schedule a Free Consultation with a Long Beach Premises Liability Attorney
Your Injuries Are Personal to Me
Attorney Michael D. Waks can assess your case in a free consultation and help you determine how best to proceed. Michael has many years of experience and a track record of success in premises liability cases. He will give your claim the individual attention it deserves and will use all the resources at his disposal to pursue the highest settlement or verdict possible.
Michael accepts personal injury and wrongful death cases on a contingency fee basis. Dial (562) 206-1939 or send an email to set up a consultation.
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