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Shining the Light on Premises Liability

Lighting in the area of an incident can make all the difference when it comes to premises liability cases. Improper lighting could make a fundamentally safe and “up-to-code” walking surface hazardous, while proper lighting can promote the safe use of that walking surface. The lighting in an area where an incident took place could potentially be the determining aspect with regards to causation and liability. Proper illumination is therefore essential to any safe premises.

A sun drenched, brightly lit parking lot by day offers sufficient illumination to make the parking lot lighting safe for all walkers of any age, but the parking lot can turn into a minefield of hazards for pedestrians at night if not properly illuminated. Brightly lit lobbies with clearly designated traffic areas and routes of egress could become areas with obscured paths and ambiguous entrances and exits when illumination levels fall below required limits.

Here are five points that our engineers consider when determining if lighting was a factor in a claim:

  1. Day vs. night.
  2. Types of lighting.
  3. Correct Illumination levels.
  4. Lighting gradients.
  5. Lighting maintenance.

Beyond slippery surfaces or uneven walkways, lighting can often be the most important factor in many premises liability cases. An engineer measures the illuminance levels in an area where a claim occurred using a light meter. Engineers will then sort through building codes and standards to determine which would apply to the case. It is important to measure lighting levels as close to the date of an accident as possible to ensure the same environmental factors, since the presence of dirty bulbs and fixtures or obstructing features could result in improper lighting levels.

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