If you’re injured on someone else’s property, was the owner of the property negligent? Can you recover compensation for your medical bills and other losses? You’ll need to discuss your rights and options – as quickly as possible – with a Washington, D.C. premises liability attorney.
Under the law in Maryland and the District of Columbia, landlords, businesses, and homeowners have a duty to use reasonable care to make sure their property is safe and free of hazards for invitees such as customers, tenants, and the public at large.
For example, poor lighting can be a cause of legal liability. When a slip or trip-and-fall injury happens because of poor lighting, the property owner or possessor may have legal responsibility based on the failure to maintain the property in a reasonably safe condition.
What’s Fair and Just in Premises Liability Cases?
The word “reasonable” is common in discussions about premises liability. No one can foresee every possible accident that might happen on his or her property. Premises liability laws are designed to find a reasonable balance that’s fair to both injury victims and property owners.
For instance, if a fall injury is caused by poor lighting – in a parking lot, hallway, or stairwell, for example – was the owner of the property aware of the inadequate lighting? Did that owner have a reasonable amount of time to repair or replace the poor lighting?
In a premises liability case based on injuries caused by inadequate lighting, the length of time that the owner had to make the repair may be the central question. The law only requires a property owner to take reasonable measures to make his or her properties safe.
How Are Cases That Involve Poor Lighting Handled?
Slip-and-fall and trip-and-fall accidents may cause brain and spinal cord injuries. The most frequent injuries are broken bones and contusions, but some slip-and-fall and trip -and-fall injuries are permanently disabling. Permanently disabled injury victims will need the maximum compensation amount available.
Most premises liability cases are resolved when the lawyers for both sides meet to negotiate an out-of-court settlement that is acceptable to all parties involved.
However, if liability for the accident and injury is disputed, or if no acceptable settlement offer is forthcoming in the out-of-court negotiations, a Washington, D.C. premises liability lawyer will take the case to trial.
What Happens at a Premises Liability Trial?
If your slip-and-fall case goes to trial, in order to prevail with a premises liability claim based on poor lighting, you and your Washington, D.C. premises liability attorney must prove that the property owner (or “defendant”):
- had a “duty of care” to keep the premises safe for visitors, employees, and/or tenants
- breached that duty of care
- directly caused the victim’s (or “plaintiff’s”) injury as a result of that negligence
- should compensate the victim for his or her damages
The legal “duty of care” differs in different situations. Drivers have a duty to drive cautiously. Drug companies have a duty to test their products and provide adequate instructions and warnings. And property owners have a duty to repair or warn people of hazardous conditions on their properties.
However, in order to bring a premises liability claim, there must be damages. If you slip and fall in a parking lot or stairwell because of poor lighting, but you’re able to get up and walk away with no injuries, you will not qualify to file a premises liability claim.
What Defenses May Property Owners Offer?
If you bring a premises liability claim for compensation after sustaining an injury caused by poor lighting, the owner of the property may try to put the burden of liability back on you by presenting one or several of these claims in his or her defense:
- You were injured because you weren’t paying attention to your surroundings.
- You were injured because you trespassed or were in a location off-limits to the public.
- Yellow cones or warning signs indicated that there was a hazard.
- A reasonable person would have seen and stayed away from the hazard.
Take These Steps After a Slip-and-Fall Incident
If you sustain an injury because of bad lighting, seek medical assistance immediately. Some injuries may be hard to detect, so even if you don’t feel like you’ve been injured, it’s important to have a medical examination immediately after a slip-and-fall incident.
Take photos of the specific spot and the general area where you were injured, and if witnesses saw what happened, ask for their names and contact information. Photographs and witness statements often make the difference in premises liability cases.
If the negligence of a property owner is the reason why you were injured – or if you’re not sure – after you have been examined and treated by a medical provider, discuss your case and your rights with a Washington, D.C. premises liability lawyer.
What is the Deadline for Taking Legal Action?
You must act within three years of a slip-and-fall injury or you cannot recover damages in Maryland or the District of Columbia, but don’t wait three years and then scramble to file a claim at the last minute. Evidence deteriorates and witnesses’ memories fade quickly, so act promptly.
If you’ve missed the three-year deadline, exceptions are made in limited situations, so go ahead and speak to an attorney about your case, but if you were recently injured because of bad lighting, or if you are injured because of bad lighting in the future, contact a lawyer immediately.
How Are Premises Liability Lawyers Paid?
If you’ve been seriously injured, and you can’t work, your medical bills may be piling up alongside your regular monthly obligations. How can you afford to pay a premises liability lawyer to represent you?
Relax. You can afford an attorney’s help. If you proceed with an injury claim, a premises liability attorney will represent you on a contingent fee basis, which means you pay no attorney’s fee upfront, and you’ll pay no fee until and unless your attorney recovers your compensation.
That includes your first consultation with your attorney, which is provided without cost or obligation. You’ll receive the personalized legal advice you need, learn how the law applies to your own case, and be able to make an informed choice about proceeding with legal action.
If you’ve been injured because of poor lighting, you are entitled by law to compensation, and you have the right to an attorney’s help, but you are the only person who can take that first step and call an attorney. If you’re injured because someone else was negligent, make that call now.