Now that the summer is over and autumn is upon us, it is important to remind everyone of an important safety issue: proper exterior lighting.  As the sun sets earlier and earlier, you must remember to adjust the lights outside of your homes and businesses to protect yourselves and visitors.  An errant garden hose leftover from those scorching summer days can turn into a major trip hazard for someone walking in the dark.  The problem will be even worse when Daylight Saving Time ends and there is even less sunlight in the late afternoon hours.  To eliminate this problem, change timers on any outside lights to ensure that there is proper lighting in all areas where people may be walking.  A simple trip and fall on a sidewalk or driveway can have disastrous consequences.

While we are on the subject of pedestrian safety, it’s also important to eliminate any known hazards or dangerous conditions on your property that could threaten your safety or the safety of someone who visits your property.  In a recent case, a woman was cleaning up following a private party at an Elks Lodge.  The woman was walking up a staircase.  As she came to the top of the stairwell, her foot caught on stair treading that was not properly secured to the landing.  She tripped and fell down 17 hardwood steps, fracturing her skull and suffering lumbar disc herniations at two levels.  Her medical expenses were more than $360,000.  The woman and her husband sued the lodge, alleging that it failed to fix a known dangerous condition.  The lawsuit also alleged that the stairway lacked a banister that extended over the landing, in violation of the applicable building code.  The plaintiff had been carrying a basket in one hand and a carafe in the other when she fell, and, not surprisingly, the defense claimed that the plaintiff was carrying too many items at the time of the fall.  The defense also claimed that the plaintiff should have been familiar with the conditions at the lodge because she was a member.  The jury awarded the plaintiff $2.84 million, apportioning liability at 60% to the defendant and 40% to the plaintiff.

That is just one example of a severe injury that resulted from a fall due to a dangerous condition on someone’s property.  Here are some tips to make your property safer for visitors.

Always make sure that doorways and staircases are well-light and free of debris.  Keep rugs and carpets in good repair.  If the carpet is bunching up or is tattered, replace it.  If it’s raining, you may want to put a mat inside on tile, wood, or concrete floors so that visitors do not slip and fall on water that is tracked into your home or business.  Make sure the mat stays down and does not move.  Otherwise, someone could slip and fall as a result of the mat.  Clean up any spills immediately.  If you notice water dripping down from gutters or the roof, fix the problem so that the area below does not become slippery or icy.  If there are any dangerous conditions on your property, put bright warning signs and cones around them and make sure to warn your guests.  Just because you know about that step-down into your sunken living room doesn’t mean your guest will remember it while he’s carrying a plate of food and a glass of wine.  Above all else, use common sense.  If does not seem safe, it probably isn’t.

Here at Stark & Stark we represent people who are hurt in accidents every single day.  We are here to help.  If you or someone you know has been injured in a trip and fall, slip and fall, or some other type of accident, call me right away.  I can help you understand your rights and assess whether you have a valid legal claim.  Hopefully, you will never need us, but if you do, you can rest assured that we have the knowledge and experience to work hard for you and protect your rights.