- Under Georgia law, business owners and occupiers have a duty to exercise “ordinary care” to keep their premises safe for visitors.
- One duty owed by most businesses, landlords or companies is to have adequate lighting throughout the parts of a property where the merchant expects the invited public to be.
- If you are hurt on a commercial property, liability (fault) is not automatic — victims must prove the business or responsible person was negligent.
- When business owners or insurance companies are unwilling to cooperate or pay a fair settlement of your injury claim, hiring a Georgia personal injury lawyer may help.
Georgia Businesses Have a Duty to Exercise Ordinary Care to Keep the Premises Safe for the Invited Public
Business owners and occupiers have a level of responsibility to keep their premises and approaches safe for the invited public (known as a “business invitee“), known as a duty of care or duty to exercise ordinary care. By law, business owners who open their doors to the public must take reasonable steps to protect invited visitors from hazards that can exist on the property.
If a business owner or occupier fails to do this, the owner, or in some cases the management company, may be liable for injuries caused by their negligence. This can also be true for owners who rent or lease a property to others.
Common accidents that occur on public property or at businesses are slips and trips and falls. These mishaps are often the result of a business owner’s negligence in maintaining or cleaning the property sufficiently. For instance, this can include businesses that fail to do the following:
- Clean up spills
- Fix trip hazards
- Have lighting adequate to prevent people from tripping or slipping and falling
- Remove faulty or damaged flooring or floor coverings
- Maintain stairs, railings, and all other structures that customers might use and rely upon while on the property
Businesses must ensure that a property or facility has adequate lighting throughout areas where the merchant or owner has invited the public, and expects people to be walking around. Insufficient lighting can make it difficult for visitors to see well and increase the likelihood of slip and trip and fall injuries.
Proper Lighting Has an Essential Role in Protecting People from Accidents and Injury
Improper lighting can be due to a building’s poor design or neglected maintenance, such as dim lighting or failure to replace burned out light bulbs. A poorly lit property due to this type of negligence can, with prompt and thorough investigation, be proven to have caused a preventable injury.
Some common areas where inadequate lighting contributes to slip/trip and fall injuries include:
- Parking lots
- Pool areas
- High-traffic areas in restaurants, theaters, or grocery stores
- Seating areas in restaurants and bars
Poor or No Lighting Can Result in Severe Injuries from Falls
A fall due to improper lighting can cause severe injuries, leading to financial hardships, which even impact your future well-being.
Injuries that commonly occur due to slip and fall accidents include:
- Sprains and strains
- Arm, shoulder, rib, hip, leg, spine, and skull fractures
- Herniated or torn discs
- Torn ligaments and tendons
- Concussions or traumatic brain injury (TBI)
When you cannot see where hazards are located, it’s easy to fall into sharp table edges, chairs, walls, or through windows or glass. The lack of lighting also makes it more difficult to fall “safely,” so injuries in dimly lit areas can be much more serious.
Common Reasons for Inadequate Lighting
With all the rules and regulations in place regarding lighting in public and private spaces, there should be no reason poorly lit areas exist. Of course, lightbulbs burn out, and fixtures fail; however, it’s part of the property owner’s duty of care to repair or replace these lighting elements as quickly as possible to protect the public from hazards.
The following are reasons and examples of why a property may have insufficient lighting:
- Dim by design – Some businesses, such as restaurants and bars, try to create ambiance with “mood lighting.” While the dimmer lights may make for a lovely dinner setting, it can also create unnecessary risk. These establishments should be appropriately designed to provide adequate lighting near the floor to illuminate possible hazards. Building codes require that high-traffic areas are well-lit so employees and customers can see properly.
- Poor maintenance – Inadequate lighting is most often the result of failure to upkeep the property. When a light fixture burns out, the business owner should fix the hazard immediately, or if that is not possible, take steps to block or rope off the area or warn the public of the potential hazard. Failing to replace a non-working or broken light fixture can mean the property owner may be negligent.
- Power outages – Although power outages may be out of a business owner’s control, laws require auxiliary lighting to take over when this occurs. According to Georgia’s Secretary of State, businesses in the state must provide illuminated pathways to exits that must be operational even during power outages.
Whether the building is poorly designed or inadequately maintained, the property owner or operator must provide and maintain adequate lighting as part of their duty of care to the public. They must take reasonable steps (“exercise ordinary care”) to keep the public safe while visiting their property. If injuries occur because of negligence or failure to meet the duty of care, the owner or operator may be held liable for those injuries.
Injury Claims from Inadequate Lighting Come with Challenges
Some Georgia businesses must follow certain rules and specifications for indoor and outdoor lighting. And, even if municipal codes or industry rules are not required or strictly violated, the premises could still be found to be negligent if the owner, occupier or manager did not exercise ordinary care by providing correct or enough lighting to prevent foreseeable trips and falls.
Evidence that can help prove negligence occurred should be gathered at the site of the accident to help prove your claim. Evidence for a slip or trip and fall case involving negligent or defective lighting may include:
- Photographs of the area where you fell
- Pictures of any trip hazards present, such as spilled items or other substances on the floor, loose or torn floor coverings, uneven floor surfaces, unmarked steps, or loose or damaged railings or stairs
- Pictures of broken or non-functional lighting
- Names and contact information of anyone who witnessed the fall
- Names and contact information for all employees. Even if an employee was not on duty, they might have known about the hazardous conditions. This may include janitorial workers who may have been aware of the hazard.
- A written statement stating what happened in detail
- Doctor’s notes and medical records documenting your injuries
Businesses Can Be Held Liable for Other Factors in a Slip and Fall
If a customer slips and falls in a commercial location, other situations may be the root cause of the fall. For example, spilled hair conditioner in the drug store, a spilled fountain drink in the convenience store, or a lone grape in the produce aisle of the local grocer. The business owner or occupier is required to remedy these types of problems as soon as the responsible person or company has notice of the problem or should have reasonably become aware of it, through ordinary inspection.
If the owner knows about the hazard but fails to fix it or supply a warning, they may be negligent and held liable for injuries. Therefore, the business owner and employees should be constantly diligent in locating and addressing potential dangers before any visitors get hurt.
If adequate lighting is not available, accidents are far more likely. People cannot avoid hazards if they are not visible.
Accidents Involving Inadequate Lighting Can Be Difficult to Prove
Proving a claim that involves negligence due to insufficient lighting can be challenging. When a customer falls or gets injured, repairs are often completed to remedy the situation quickly. Business owners may replace lightbulbs and repair or replace faulty fixtures to erase evidence of their negligence. To make matters worse, employees are often cautioned not to discuss these matters with anybody. For these reasons, it can be extremely difficult to obtain the evidence necessary to prove your claim.
Fortunately, a personal injury lawyer is accustomed to dealing with these informational roadblocks. For example, if hired soon enough an injury lawyer may send a preservation of evidence letter, which can result in legal penalties to the business or its insurance company for altering or destroying evidence. Other options include inspecting the premises with an attorney or expert or filing a lawsuit as soon as possible to prevent natural or man-made changes to the area where your injury happened. Lighting experts or engineers can be employed to measure the amount light in the questionable area, to prove that the accident was not your fault.
Having the resources of a qualified law firm available to you makes it much easier to gather the proof you need for your claim.
First Steps Toward a Full and Fair Settlement
If you have been injured in a slip and fall accident due to inadequate lighting, it’s a good idea to consult with a lawyer before you consider settling your claim. Many attorneys offer a free first consultation, which can help you better understand your rights and the pathway toward a fair and full settlement.
The legal team at The Millar Law Firm has been advocating for victims of negligence for decades. We know how to obtain and use the evidence needed to help you win your claim and free you from the financial burden of your injuries. Call for your free consultation today. 770-400-0000